History of Cheerleading

Topics: Cheerleading, Pom-pon, The Cheerleaders Pages: 5 (1415 words) Published: October 12, 2008
“Rah rah rah! Tiger, Tiger, Sis, Sis, Sis! Boom, Boom Boom! Aaaah! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton!”

Just like anything else, cheerleading has quite a history behind it. From the first chants at Princeton University to one of today’s most popular National pastimes, cheerleading has come a long way the past ten decades. In ancient times spectators cheered for runners in races held during the first ever Olympic Games in ancient Greece. In the 1860's students in Great Britain began cheering at competitive sporting events and soon the idea spread to the United States.

In 1884, Thomas Peebles, a graduate of Princeton University, took that yell and formed the first pep club. They created the first-known cheer sport of football to the University of Minnesota. It was from that campus that organized cheerleading began.

According to the book, History of Cheerleading, cheerleading as we know it today was initiated in 1898 by Jack Campbell, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. The football team was having a pitiful season and was looking for a way to send positive energy to the players. Campbell stood in front of the crowd and directed them in a chant. Campbell became the first ever cheerleader. Therefore, cheerleading officially began on November 2, 1898.

Soon after that, the university organized a “yell leader” squad consisting of four males. Cheerleading was dominated by men in its early years. However, when large numbers of young men went off to fight in World War II, the tables turned. More than 90% of cheerleaders were female from that point on.

The evolution of cheerleading as a sport, again led by The University of Minnesota, started in the 1920's. As skills dramatically increased, cheerleading began to receive recognition as a serious athletic activity. Gymnastics, tumbling, pyramids, partner stunts, and advanced jumps became incorporated in cheers.

According to Cheer Magazine, the 1930’s brought on the growth of showmanship in cheerleading and cheerleading became more entertaining to watch. Several colleges offered scholarships, college credits, and a four year letter program. Widespread use of the megaphone began the 1900’s as a way to increase the sound of the voice so that it carried throughout the stands. During this time, the first cheerleader fraternity was organized, an all-male organization called Gamma Sigma. Women finally came into the scene in the late 1930’s.

Paper pom pons were also discovered in the 1930’s. They were brightly colored strips of crepe paper in the school’s colors. The poms made the arm movements stand out so that fans even in the highest and farthest seats from the field could see the cheerleaders. Paper pom pons did not hold up in rainy whether. In the 1960’s Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pom pon. It remains the cheerleader’s most used prop.

Who would have guessed a man would have the largest impact on the growth of cheerleading. Well its true and his name is Lawrence Herkimer. Herkimer has done much for cheerleading in the United States. He founded the National Cheerleading Association at Southern Methodist University. He also taught the first cheerleading camp at Sam Houston College. The first year fifty two girls attended and by the next year the size of the camp had grown to 350. Herkimer had no idea that he would end up with 20,000 girls attending cheerleading camp in the summertime. Herkimer also was the inventor of a very popular cheerleading jump which was named "the herkie" after him.

Once the cheerleaders were trained, they needed a source for sweaters, skirts, and other cheerleading gear. In the early 1950s, Herkimer opened the Cheerleaders Supply Company to offer apparel, equipment, and fundraising items. Today, the Cheerleaders Supply Company and the National Cheerleaders Association have combined to become a multi-million dollar operation.

Herkimer also invented the spirit stick, one of the most important cheerleading camp...

References: Cobourn, Pam.“The History of Cheerleading.” 25 Nov 2006. sports.us/cheer-history.htm>.
Froiland, Paul. “History of Cheerleading.” Cheer Magazine. 2003. Academic Search
Premier. ProQuest. 25 Nov. .
Valliant, Doris. History of Cheerleading. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.
Villarreal, Cindy. “Becoming a Cheerleader.” The Cheerleaders Guide to Life. 2002.
Academic Search Premier. ProQuest. 26 Nov.
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