History of Tumbling for Cheerleading

by omni

Tumbling is an essential part of sideline and competitive cheerleading, and is a staple in almost every cheerleading routine that is performed today. Tumbling moves that are used by today’s cheerleading teams include the cartwheels, roundoffs, handsprings, tucks and fulls. Though it is a major part of cheerleading today, tumbling actually has its roots in gymnastics, not in cheerleading. In gymnastics, tumbling routines are part of a gymnasts’ floor exercise and also include some dance moves. Cheerleaders use the power tumbling and move combination elements from gymnastics for their routines – for moves performed on the ground and in the air. Cheerleading routines often include tumbling passes done by several team members in sync, and also individual power passes. In addition, many of the flips and twists that cheerleading flyers do as part of a stunt group reflects tumbling moves that are performed on the ground. Here is a brief history of tumbling, and its integration into cheerleading: Tumbling, as part of gymnastics, was first used as part of a training program for other sports and activities. The training exercises and actual activities helped teach trainees hand-eye coordination that can be used in combat, and for other sports. Eventually the skills learned as part of gymnastics overall became accomplishments on their own, and a new competitive sport was born. Gymnastics proved itself to be a high-powered sport and is now found at all levels of competition – from high school sports to the Olympics. The sport of gymnastics, and along with it tumbling, was first introduced in the United States in the 1830s. Although tumbling is still a part of gymnastics today, it has also evolved into its own event, and been incorporated into other activities, like cheerleading and dance. In the 1880s, power tumbling had a National Championship in the United States. Back then, simple mats were still being used. It was in the 1920s that females first joined cheerleader squads, and they brought tumbling along with them. In the 1970s, there was still a stigma surrounding women’s tumbling. While men’s tumbling focused on strength and power, women’s routines were judged by their grace and delicate movements. That all changed when a 17-year-old Soviet gymnast named Olga Korbut performed, and captured the hearts of the world by displaying grace and power in her routines. Tumbling was now an activity that allowed both men and women to exhibit power! The 1990s were a time for advancement and innovation for tumbling in cheerleading. High school cheerleading squads started to take after college-level teams and increased the amount of full-squad tumbling in their routines. Cheerleading first used a spring floor, designed to help provide “bounce’ for tumbling passes, at competitions in the late 1990s, and cheer teams also began to increase the size of their performance area so they could incorporate longer tumbling passes. As tumbling became a staple in cheerleading, it became clear that specially designed athletic gear would be needed to accommodate the standard skills that came along with cheerleading. In the early 2000s, the first spring floor cheer shoe was released, and these days there are several cheer shoes for tumblers available, with special designs and technology.

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