When Princeton graduate Thomas Peebies gave a suggestion that organized crowds cheer the teams they support during football matches, in 1898, he had no idea that his suggestion would culminate into an activity and concept which is probably one of the most searched topics on the Internet. No prizes for guessing what I am talking about. It is the quintessential cheerleading! Let's turn back a few pages in its history.
The Kick Start
The genesis of cheerleading is synonymous to the history of cheerleading in America. It all started with Thomas Peebies introducing the idea of perking up and cheering in organized crowds during football matches with a characteristic chant 'Rah Rah Rah, to the University of Minnesota'. This was not noticed and prominent till Johnny Campbell started guiding and directing a crowd in cheering. Thus, Campbell became the first ever cheerleader, and on November 2. 1898, cheerleading, as an organized group sport or activity was born. Just after that, the University of Minnesota got together a 'yell leader' squad, comprising 6 male students. So, it was guys, and not girls, who initiated cheerleading. Consequently, in 1903, Gamma Sigma, the first cheerleading fraternity was formed.
The Influx of the Fairer Sex
Cheerleading was an all-man show. Surprising, yet true, until girls became a part of the show in 1923. Interestingly, they got an entry into cheerleading, as there were very few college sport activities which they could participate in. They, however, did not take complete charge, till the Second World War. This is when most young men were involved on the war front. At that time, cheerleading was limited only to a few jumps and simple steps using pom poms. Varsity sweaters and ankle-length skirts was the norm . A big leap came in 1948, when Lawrence Herkimer and a former cheerleader from Southern Methodist University came up with the National Cheerleading Association. This was formed to hold cheerleading clinics. This contributed to the innovation of new moves and stunts. 52 girls were part of the first clinic of NCA in 1949. By the 1960s, the cheerleading business had taken the nation by storm. College cheerleaders started training across the nation. This was also the year when National Football League teams started to organize professional cheerleading teams. The first NFL team to have a professional cheerleading team was Baltimore Colts, aka Indiana Colts. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders came into the spotlight with cool dance moves and great outfits, in the late 1960s, which changed the whole scene altogether.
Towards the Contemporary Form
Cheerleading had become quite popular and rampant by the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1965, with the advent of vinyl pom poms, thanks to Fred Gastoff, an important chapter was added to competitions. These vinyl pom poms were introduced by the World Cheerleading Association in competitions. In 1967, the first cheerleading awards were given out. Central Broadcasting Service gave a novel experience to people by broadcasting Collegiate Cheerleading Championships for the first time. Then came the next exciting decade of the 1980s, when stunts started difficult and challenging.
Teams with stars were formed, and then came the United States All Star Federation (USAASF), and ESPN sports channel broadcasted the National High School Cheerleading Competition nationwide in 1983. Then a flurry of organizations for cheerleading were founded, and the rules and safety standards too were concretized, as the stunts became dangerous, posing a risk of injuries. Ultimately, in early 2000, the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education (NCSSE) was established, for ensuring safety and safety training directed towards youth, school, all star and college coaches. Apart from American football and basketball, cheerleading is also done for the game of cricket as of late.
Some have categorized it as a sport while others still limit it to a recreational activity. Whatever it is, it has come a long way, and the traditional spirit of leading is still the same as in the 1890s.