The sport of cheerleading and its development

Before cheerleading became a staple of professional sports to help fans cheer on their team, it had its beginnings at the college level. Over many decades it has not only developed as an independent competitive sport, but also serves as an ambassador to draw attention to charitable purposes and to offer support in a variety of ways.

Cheerleading originated at the University of Minnesota. The very first cheerleader was a University of Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell. During a football game, he stirred the crowd by cheering, “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Uni! Uni! Uni, Minn-e-so-Tah!” The date was November 2, 1898. The university later assembled a cheer group of six male students who continued to use Campbell’s original cheer. Although cheerleaders were originally all-male teams, women were admitted in 1923 and eventually made up the majority of the contestants. Cheerleading soon took off with routines such as tumbling, gymnastics, and the use of megaphones during football games.

In 1948, a former Southern Methodist University cheerleader named Lawrence Herkimer founded the National Cheerleaders Association. It was formed to hold cheerleading classes, and by the 1960s, college cheerleaders nationwide were hosting workshops teaching teenage girls in high school the basics of cheering. In 1965, Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pom-pon, which was used in International Cheerleading Foundation competitions. Today it is known as the World Cheerleading Association. Organized cheerleading competitions sprang up everywhere until 1978, when CBS aired the first Collegiate Cheerleading Championships and gave the sport greater exposure. Though cheerleading rarely garnered much attention in the 1960s and cheerleaders weren’t exactly a reason to watch football, organized professional cheerleading teams began to develop.

Before becoming the famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the Dallas Cowboys had a cheer group made up of male and female high school students called CowBelles & Beaux. During the 1970 football season, Cowboys manager Tex Schramm decided to completely overhaul the cheerleaders, making them an all-female roster over 18, redesigning the uniforms, creating new dance-style cheer routines, and hoping to create an overall sexier look to increasing visitor numbers. The women not only had to be attractive and sportive when they auditioned, they also had to have acting talent. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders made their first appearance on the sidelines during the 1972–1973 NFL season. Since then they have appeared on many television shows, toured the US and overseas, and performed regularly on USO tours in support of our troops.

Modern cheerleading has changed dramatically from its original function of spurring an audience to show their support for the team. It has become a sport in its own right that also competes outside of sporting events. Cheerleaders exist in most American middle schools, high schools, and colleges with organized groups made up of students. Cheerleading scholarships are even offered by colleges that participate in cheerleading competitions.

In the 1980s, cheerleading teams that had no affiliation with any school or athletic league began to emerge. Their main goal was competition only. Divisions and teams have been created and sponsored by many different organizations and companies. The competitions are judged based on the difficulty and execution of the routines, which include jumping, stunts, tumbling, creativity, showmanship, synchronization and general routine performance. These all-star team competitions are broadcast to a global audience, which has resulted in thousands of cheerleaders from countries around the world.

Professional cheerleading has taken cheerleaders beyond the sphere of cheering at games. It has broadened her horizons through charity work and philanthropy, television appearances, advertising, modeling and motivational speaking. Cheerleading has come a long way.

Thanks to Anna Kelly | #sport #cheerleading #development

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