What a lot of people don’t know is that cheerleading originated with male students during the 18th century as a form of rebellion. After the American Revolutionary War, students tired of teacher’s harsh treatment organized extracurricular activities on their own. November 6, 1869 marked the date of the first college football game between Princeton and Rutgers University. During the game the original cheer “Sis Boom Rah” was shouted by other students.
The earliest documented cheer was on February 22, 1877 by Princeton University. The “Princeton Cheer” was screamed by not only the students during baseball and football games but by the athletes themselves. The first people to be named “Cheer Leaders” were three male Princeton students on October 16, 1987. They would cheer for the team at football practices and had special cheering sections assigned for them.
However, it was not until 1898 that a student by the name of Johnny Campbell of the University of Minnesota directed a cheer. This earned him the very first title of cheerleader and organized cheerleading was born. Shorty after that the university organized a “yell leader” team of six male students.
Female Cheerleaders and the Growth of Cheerleading
Interestingly enough, females didn’t participate in cheerleading until 1923, when the University of Minnesota incorporated them into the team. It took a long time for other schools to follow and it wasn’t until the 1940s when men were drafted for World War II that females had an opportunity to participate in sports.
In 1948 Lawrence Herkimer organized the first summer cheerleading clinic at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College. He went to develop the “Herkie” jump, the pom pom and the spirit stick. In 1961 Lawrence went on to incorporate the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA).
In the 1950s cheerleading in the U.S not only increased in popularity but females had taken over. During this time cheerleading also became a profession when the NFL’s team, Baltimore Colts, had the first recorded cheer team.
During the following years cheerleading expanded to middle school, high school and pee wee and youth leagues across the U.S. The Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) was founded in 1974 by Jeff Webb. During the 1980s more event companies launched and the first association to teaching safety was launched.
All-star cheerleading began in the late 80’s. These leagues are not associated with a school. Its purpose was solely competition. In 2003 the USASF was formed by the competition companies to make a set of rules and judging standards to be followed.
Although, cheerleading is thought to be a bunch of girls dancing around in skirts and yelling some motivational words, it has actually become a very competitive sport. Cheerleading has evolved and there are many things beyond a creative “cheer” that go into it. Even though it is considered a “feminine” sport it started out with men and although it is predominantly women nowadays, men participate also.