History Of Cheerleading

Did The History Of Cheerleading Really Start In Minnesota?

According to some, the history of cheerleading dates back to the late nineteenth century, and to a football game at the University of Minnesota. The first yell actually had its origins at Princeton, but was first performed before a crowd at Minnesota. The familiar Sis Boom Bah, was part of the yell, as was Tiger, Tiger. Whether Tiger, Tiger was replaced by Golden Gopher - Golden Gopher, isn't known. Maybe the crowd was happy with Tiger, as since this was the first cheerleading yell at a football game, the words probably didn't matter all that much.

Were There Cheerleaders In Ancient Times? - Before 1800 we really don't know whether there was any organized cheerleading anywhere in the world. One could envision primitive men and women cheerleading when a party returned from the hunt, but whether that ever occurred we'll never know. There isn't any record to be found from Ancient Rome or Greece, and Egyptian hieroglyphics give no hint of cheerleaders being present at any of their major events. It would appear then, that the history of cheerleading is strictly an American phenomenon.

Minnesota Leads The Way – More Than Once - Minnesota is not only the initial source of organized cheerleading, but also has the distinction of having the first college fight song (presumably any reference to Tigers, was dropped). Before the turn of the century, most stadiums were fairly small, and a cheerleader with good lungs could be heard by most of the students in attendance. With the advent of larger and more modern stadiums, it became more difficult to follow the cheerleaders, and by 1900 the megaphone came into widespread use. The megaphone in fact was regularly associated with college life up to and through the 1920's.

Up until the 1920's it was almost entirely men who made up the cheerleading squads. Women began to take part in the early 1920's and again it was the University of Minnesota which blazed that particular trail, complete with gymnastic routines. Finally, another university, this time Oregon State, took the initiative and organized the use of flash cards in the student cheering section. For the next 30 or 40 years, cheerleading didn't change all that much, the major new innovation being the pom-pom. Of course cheerleading spread, not only to every major university, but to high schools as well, and by the late 1900's to several professional sports. Cheerleading went from an activity looked upon as being not terribly important, a bit silly perhaps, to an activity which was closely tied to school spirit, and eventually an integral part of a school's athletic program. There have been a few cheerleaders who have gone on to greater fame, President Dwight Eisenhower, and movie actor Jimmy Stewart, to name two. Today, being on the yell squad, especially being the captain, is definitely a sign of leadership and yell kings, or cheerleading queens, often go on to lead very successful lives as befits those who are achievers.

Cheerleading Goes Big Time - By the 1970's the history of cheerleading had moved into a competitive stage, with the Collegiate Cheerleading Championships being televised for the first time. Cheerleading has become an athletic event in itself. To be a member of the yell squad, it still helps of course if one is attractive, but personality and athleticism mean even more. Some of the cheerleading routines we see these days require countless hours of work to get right. Some routines can even be dangerous if not performed correctly, and cheerleaders do on occasion suffer injuries. We've come a long way from shouting Sis-Boom-Bah through a megaphone, and a good cheerleader, and a well disciplined cheerleading squad, can bring a stadium full of people to their feet, and at the same time accomplish something the history of cheerleading has seen happen many times - giving the home team that little extra incentive to carry them on to victory! The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians could certainly have made good use of a few top-notch yell squads.