Art & Culture

How Cheerleading As We Know It Came to Be

A cheer squad standing with their backs to the camera, wearing uniforms and carrying pom poms.

Cheerleading is one of the most underrated and underappreciated displays of athletic excellence and it’s time to change that

What do you think of when you think of cheering? Is it catty high schoolers or a group of women boosting the morale of major sports teams and athletes with their wily charms? You might be surprised to know that cheerleading is so much more than the restricted, narrow, and often sexist supplementary activity it’s made out to be.

In fact, it’s one of the most competitive, demanding sports in the world today, and has quite an illustrious past and history. Let’s take a look at the history of cheerleading in more detail:  

How and where did cheerleading start?

While some attribute the origin of cheerleading to Europe, many trace it back to Princeton University in the US, all the way back in the 1880s. Most notably, it’s believed that a student from Princeton, Thomas Peebles along with some peers, began cheering for their local football team with cheers. In 1884, he transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he took this idea of cheering for football players even further. Eventually, another student at U-Minnesota, Johnny Campbell became the first real cheerleader when he organized one for a major game.

However, at the time cheerleaders were almost entirely men. But seeing the success and impact of cheerleading on athletic performance it became incredibly popular across other collegiate campuses as well as secondary educational institutions, now known as high school and middle school.

cheerleaders practice gym - How Cheerleading As We Know It Came to Be

When did cheerleading become an All-Star sport?

Over the years, cheerleading continued to gain popularity, but it wasn’t until World War II when women got the chance to shine in the world of cheerleading. Soon, the world saw the emergence of the National Cheerleaders Association which was established in the US in the early 1970s.

The founder, Laurence “Herkie” Hurkimer, was instrumental to how the sport grew, as training camps and sessions were introduced to teach basic stunts, jumps, and ways to engage crowds to cheerleaders across the country. They taught them how to perform stunts with partners, groups, and form unique cheers.

As sports for women became commonplace in schools and colleges, cheerleading also began to improve and get stronger, faster, flexible, and more agile. In the 70’s and early 80’s, cheerleading competitions started getting televised, displaying the true extent of skills and talent that cheerleaders possessed.

What does cheerleading as a sport entail?

Over time, uniforms were also upgraded and baggy sweaters were replaced with form-fitting, flashier uniforms that became a part of their act and an extension of their coordination.

As a sport, cheerleading is one of the toughest, most competitive and intense All-Star sports in the world. It combines gymnastics, stunts, and dance, and requires incredible strength training, flexibility, and agility to be able to execute those moves and skills. It’s an intense sport that focuses on extensive athletic abilities, coordination, and training, while also testing teamwork and testing creativity and innovation.   

For more sports and entertainment news, check out Calle Ocho News as we share plenty of information, updates, and insights. Learn about the history of different sports, sporting events, and more through our website.

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