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The History of Cheerleading

The first pep club was established at Princeton University in the 1870's and the following decade brought about the first organized yell. According to legend, at a Princeton football game, Thomas Peebler gathered six men to lead a yell on the sidelines in front of the student body. In 1884, Peebler reportedly took the yell to the University of Minnesota campus and on November 2, 1898, a cheerleader named Johnny Campbell got so excited that he jumped out in front of the crowd. The University of Minnesota is also credited with the first school "fight song".

Although it was used with the very first cheer in 1898, the 1900's saw the popular use of the megaphone. The first cheerleader fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was also organized in the 1900's. The first "homecoming" was held at the University of Illinois in 1910. In 1920, "yell leaders" brought in drums and noisemakers. As football became more popular, so did cheerleading.

Women became active in cheerleading in the 1920's. The University of Minnesota cheerleaders began to incorporate gymnastics and tumbling into their cheers, and the first flash-card cheering section was directed by Lindley Bothwell at Oregon State University. In the 1930's, universities and high schools alike began performing pom-pon routines and using paper poms, still the most widely recognized cheerleading prop.

In the early 1940's, when men went to war, women not only went to work, but also onto the cheerleading squads. Since then, cheerleading has been known as a mostly female sport. When the men returned from war, new twists and turns were added. Gymnastics were always done by men, while the girls danced, which gave rise to dance teams.

In 1948, Laurence "Herkie" Herkimer (founder of the spirit industry and the ever-famous Herkie Jump) organized the first cheerleading camp at Huntsville's Sam Houston University with just 52 girls in attendance. The first cheerleading organization, the National Cheerleading Association (NCA), was founded and Hurkimer created spirit slogans, ribbons, and buttons to raise spirit and money.

In the 1950's, college cheerleaders began conducting cheerleading workshops to teach fundamental cheerleading skills. The modern vinyl pom was invented by Fred Gastoff, around 1965, and was introduced by the International Cheerleading Foundation (now the W.C.A.). The "Bruin High Step" style of pom-pon routine was developed by UCLA cheerleaders and the International Cheerleading Foundation. In 1967, the first annual ranking of the "Top Ten College Cheer Squads" was begun as was the initiation of the "Cheerleader All America" awards by the International Cheerleading Foundation.

The Baltimore Colts organized the first professional cheerleading squad in history. Up until then, high school squads were used on the sidelines to promote spirit at NFL games. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders created a pure pom-pon "Broadway-style" dance entertainment for the crowds.

As the 1970's began, cheerleading was building greater and greater momentum. In addition to cheering for the traditional football and basketball teams, cheerleaders began supporting all school sports, sometimes selecting several different squads to cheer for wrestling, track and field, and swimming. The first nation-wide television broadcast of the Collegiate Cheerleading Championships on CBS-TV in the Spring of 1978 was initiated by the International Cheerleading Foundation. In 1976, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders performed at Super Bowl X and started an evolution of "dancing cheerleaders." The 1970's also saw the beginning of collegiate and high school cheerleading competitions.

In 1980, universal standards were established and safety guidelines ruled out many dangerous tumbling passes and pyramids. National cheerleading competitions for junior and senior high school, as well as collegiate squads, took place across the U.S. Also, the I.C.F. Training Course for faculty cheerleading 'sponsors' and coaches was offered at locations nationwide.

Today, collegiate pom and dance is a fast growing segment of the spirit industry. Partly in response to the internationalization of basketball and American football, cheerleading is now itself international, with Japan, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Mexico (among other) countries involved in the sport.

The importance of cheerleading has come a long way and was first acknowledged by Willis Bugbee in 1927, when he wrote: "The cheerleader, where once was merely tolerated, is now a person of real estate. His prestige is such that at many schools and colleges he must win his place in competitive examination." And it is true today, that a person must be highly skilled and competitive in order to achieve the honored and respected position of cheerleader. This cherished position has, throughout the years, been held by some truly talented people including:

Kirk Douglas
Jimmy Stewart
Meyrl Streep
Terri Hatcher
Samuel L. Jackson
Mary McDonnell
Eve Plumb (Brady Bunch)
President George W. Bush
Paula Abdul
Kim Bassinger
Halle Berry
Betty Buckley
Sandra Bullock
Deana Carter
Senator Thad Cochran
Katie Couric
President Dwight Eisenhower
Barbara Hershey
Reba McIntire
Jessica Lange
Jack Lemmon
Senator Trent Lott
Susan Lucci
Shirley MacLaine
Steve Martin
Mary McDonnell
Annie Potts
Diane Sawyer
Cybil Shepard
Sissy Spacek
Aaron Spelling
Prescilla Presley
Arnold Swartsneager
Lilly Tomlin
Raquel Welch
Vanna White
Cameron Diaz
Kirsten Dunst
Rita Wilson
Mandy Moore
Jessica Simpson
Jason Mraz
Christina Aguliera