In addition to pom poms, the history of cheerleading tells us that other iconic accessories for cheerleading include spirit sticks and megaphones. Spirit sticks are not only important to individual cheerleaders and teams, they are also a crowd favorite. The same goes for megaphones; they are used by stadium crowds as much as they are used by cheerleaders and mascots. Let’s take a look back.
Every cheerleader understands the honor of receiving the spirit stick at cheer camp, but how did it all begin? In 1945, Lawrence Herkimer held a National Cheerleading Association (NCA) cheer camp where teams of all levels and experiences participated in learning the routines and cheerleading fitness tips.
One squad in particular was not the best at performing the moves, but they stood out from all the other teams in spirit. They arrived early and stayed past the end of practices to continue working, and encouraged all the other teams no matter what the activity. Their enthusiastic attitude dramatically increased the spirit in the camp.
Herkimer was so impressed by the squad’s positivity and spirit that he wanted to reward them with a token that showed that they represented the spirit that all cheerleaders should have. He cut a small tree branch, decorated it with paint, and awarded it to the team in front of the entire camp. Thus began the tradition of awarding spirit sticks at cheer camp.
Ever since then, cheer camps have used spirit sticks to represent the essence of cheerleading. They are awarded, usually in a ceremony, to the cheerleading squad that shows the most teamwork as well as spirit and support to all the other teams at camp. It has become the coveted goal all squads strive to acquire.
Individual teams have picked up on the spirit stick tradition too, and will give the award to a single member of the team that fully embodies the cheer spirit. The crowds, too, often have their own versions of spirit sticks that they wave in the crowd. Some even double as noise makers. These crowd sticks are sometimes used as a fundraising activity for teams; they either make them and sell them or order them from a cheerleading company for resale.
As time has gone on, the decorations and embellishments of spirit sticks has gotten more intricate. Teams with their own spirit sticks either have one that is passed down every year, or create a new one each season that is decorated with their school colors and might include the names of the team members.
Cheerleaders’ voices can sometimes be overpowered by large, enthusiastic crowds at games and performances, so they use megaphones to project their voices. This way, the audience is able to hear them cheer and chant and they can effectively lead the crowd in raising spirit.
The idea of the megaphone first came about from the Greek Theater from 500 to 200 BC, since actors needed to project their voices to huge crowds during performances and microphones had not yet been invented. Actors used a mouthpiece in the shape of a small cone to assist in projecting their voice to the audience.
The first modern day megaphone was created in 1650 by Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit scholar who was studying sound. When cheerleading began at Princeton in the 1880s, members of the cheerleading squad used megaphones to project their voices at football games. Although cheerleading at universities became popular, it was men who cheered at football games and used megaphones to deepen their voices. It wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s when both male and female cheerleaders used megaphones as part of their cheerleading tools.
Today, there are two types of megaphones- plastic megaphones that are open on both ends, and an electrical megaphone that features a microphone on one side and loudspeaker on the other. Cheerleaders tend to use the plastic megaphones as they make better displays in performances. Cheer squads also decorate their megaphones with school or team logos, fun, encouraging words, and decals to look and sound spirited.
Cheerleading is all about having a positive attitude no matter where you are, and raising spirit from the crowd during games and performances. That’s why the spirit stick and megaphones are so important to help cheerleaders keep the spirit up!