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43 Interesting Cheerleading Facts You Didn't Know About This Sport

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Over the last couple of years, cheerleading has exploded all over the world and at a rate so fast that it has become a professional Olympic sport.

Cheerleading started as a mode of encouragement for the team where participants, called cheerleaders, show intense physical activities or chant slogans for their team. Cheerleading is done for many different purposes, some do it to motivate a team, some to entertain the audience, and some for competition.

Cheerleading usually lasts from one to three minutes and consists of a lot of physical activities ranging from dance, tumbling, cheers, jumps, and stunting. Cheerleading came from the United States and is still dominant in the country with around 3.8 million participants as of 2017. It has become a leading sport in the country along with other important sports in the U.S. like baseball, basketball, and football. In fact, you will find cheerleaders cheering and motivating your team in every match of every sport in the country. This culture has since been seen in many different countries in the world with many sports, such as cricket, seeing cheerleaders now. When ESPN broadcasted the international cheerleading competition in 1997, the global presentation of the sport of cheerleading started. The worldwide release of the film 'Bring It On' in 2000 also represented cheerleading to the whole world. There are now around 7.5 million participants worldwide in 116 member nations, as claimed by the International Cheer Union (ICU). Countries like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, China, Colombia, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom see cheerleaders coming up now.

What is cheerleading?

Cheerleading is hailed as a competitive sport in today's world, but it was not always like this.

  • Now a part of all competitive sports games in the world, cheerleading had to fight its way in.
  • Cheerleading has evolved as a sport and many U.S. presidents have even been cheerleaders.
  • George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, and Franklin Roosevelt were all known to be cheerleaders in the past.
  • Cheerleading basically started out as cheering a team to boost the morale and the spirit of the team.
  • Cheerleading has since become an important part of many sporting events.
  • Cheerleading started as a means to encourage teams, but today it has become a lot more than just a simple routine.
  • With chants and cheers, and many physical routines, cheerleading was always used as a morale-boosting event before and during a football game.
  • Cheerleaders don't use much safety gear, but they have to go through many risky physical activities. This is why cheerleaders are encouraged to be expert gymnasts.
  • Cheerleading started in the United States in the 1880s and is still very popular.
  • As a sport, cheerleading is more than 100 years old. It started as a way to cheer teams but now has turned out to be one of the most versatile sports in the world.
  • Cheerleading now includes cheering, physical activities, organized routines, and entertainment.
  • Cheerleading was an all-male activity at first. Only around 40 years later after it was first started, the first female cheerleaders were added.
  • Among all modern cheerleaders, 97% are said to be female cheerleaders now. However, at the collegiate level, 50% of cheerleaders are male as of 2005.
  • 80% of schools in the United States have cheerleading squads. And the most popular sport that this cheerleading squad cheers for is football.
  • Texas is called the cheerleading capital of the U.S. due to its high number of cheerleading squads and cheerleading competitions.
  • There is a Guinness Book of World Records on cheerleading too. The largest cheer pyramid had 60 people forming one giant human pyramid. This largest cheer pyramid was built in August 2017 in New Zealand.
  • Pom-poms actually started as a decoration and an ornament. Pom-poms were made of paper and cheerleaders used them for decoration. Paper pom-poms were invented in 1940.
  • The usable pom-poms were designed and started getting manufactured in 1953 with a hidden handle.
  • A good cheerleader should be energetic, physically strong, portray confidence, and be a good team player.

Founding History Of Cheerleading

Cheerleading has a rich history and it started as a medium for other sports, later turning into one itself. Modern cheerleading has changed a lot, but let us first know some history behind this esteemed sport.

  • Organized cheerleading or simply cheering started in the late 1800s at Princeton University. The crowd chant, 'Rah rah rah, tiger tiger tiger, sis sis sis, boom boom boom ahh!, Princeton Princeton Princeton!'.
  • It was called a Princeton cheer and it goes back to as far back as 1877. This chant came into being to induce school spirit in football games of Princeton.
  • A Princeton graduate, Thomas Pebbles, later moved to Minnesota and introduced the idea of an organized crowd chanting to support the team in the University of Minnesota.
  • This was in 1884. Although the idea came before, it was not until 1898 when a University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell stood in the crowd, right in front of it, and chanted for the team.
  • Campbell was deemed the first cheerleader. The University of Minnesota then organized a four male student yell leader squad for the games. The day Campbell chanted 'Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!', it became the official date of organized cheerleading. It was November 2, 1898.
  • Cheerleading first started as an all-male activity, even when over 90% of cheerleaders today are females.
  • Females only started cheerleading in the '20s as there were limited female collegiate sports. It took until the '40s for the cheerleading competitive sport to become almost an all-female one.
  • Although cheerleading is associated closely with American football (high school cheerleading among high school students is very popular in the United States), it is also known a little for sports like basketball.
  • Cheerleaders are very limited in sports like soccer, wrestling, and ice hockey and baseball has no cheerleaders at all.
  • The National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) was formed in 1948 by Lawrence 'Herkie' Herkimer to hold cheerleading clinics.
  • 52 girls attended the first clinic of 1949 conducted by the National Cheerleaders Association. The next year, the clinic saw a total of 350 cheerleaders.
  • Almost all American high schools had formed their own cheerleading squad by the '50s.
  • By the '60s, cheerleading had already become the staple in American high school and college sports.
  • Then started the quest of organized cheerleading competitions to find the best ones in the country among the cheerleading fraternity.
  • Awards like 'Top Ten College Cheerleading Squads' and 'Cheerleader All America' were given out by the International Cheerleading Foundation in 1967.
  • This organization is now known as the WCA or World Cheerleading Association.
  • In 1978 CBS broadcasted the Collegiate Cheerleading Championships for the first time, introducing competitive cheerleading to America.
  • The '60s saw NFL (National Football League) teams starting to organize professional cheerleading teams.
  • The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders became superhit when they started because of their extraordinary dance moves.
  • The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders debuted in the 1972-73 season in their local match.
  • They made themselves known all over the states in Super Bowl X of 1976.
  • This made many NFL teams make their cheerleading teams in the image of the Dallas Cowboys ones as the picture changed after the Super Bowl.
  • Many cheerleading squads of that time will be considered dance teams by today's modern cheerleading standards.
  • They almost never encouraged crowd noises or even did sophisticated physical moves in the sporting events. They just cheer teams they are associated with.
  • In the '80s, more difficult stunts and gymnastics started to be shown by cheerleaders and added to the modern cheerleading routine.
  • Safety guidelines started being incorporated by cheerleading organizations.
  • After this event, safety training for cheerleading coaches and sponsors started to keep high school cheerleading and even professional cheerleading as safe as possible.
  • Cheerleaders do not wear any safety equipment, so it is necessary to be careful while performing dangerous stunts.
  • Cheer Ltd. Inc. established the National Cheer Conference (NCC) in 1984.
  • NCC imparted instructions and guidelines for cheerleading techniques to cheerleading coaches.

Levels Of Cheerleading

All-star cheerleading is an up-and-coming sport and it offers a wide range of levels for the athletes to compete in. Cheer divisions also have Tiny Cheer, Mini Cheer, Youth Cheer, Junior Cheer, and Senior Cheer. This is how groups are divided for competitive cheerleading.

  • Each age group can have more or fewer levels depending on the size of the gym. Most age groups have around two levels to make the training more competitive.
  • Tumbling skills and stunting skills decide the cheerleading levels of the group.
  • Tumbling is basically cartwheels, walkovers, handsprings, and roll which are all floor gymnastics.
  • Stunting is probably more difficult as it involves one individual or more lifting another from the performance surface.
  • As the levels keep on increasing, the pace and complexity of the physical routine also increase.
  • Each cheerleading level builds on the previous level which means that the next level will include all the skills and will also include newer difficult ones.
  • Level one is for U6, U8, U12, U17 where stunting includes activities generally below shoulder height or at par. Lifting is not allowed here. Tumbling here includes cartwheels, rolls, walkovers, and round-offs.
  • Level two is for U8, U12, and U17. Here, tumbling includes handsprings, dive rolls, and round-off handsprings. Stunting is at shoulder height and can be above that. Only a basic toss is allowed here.
  • Level three is for U12 and U17. Tumbling includes punch fronts, aerials, and round-off handspring tucks.
  • Stunting is with one leg and at par height or above. There are more extensive mounts and dismounts into stunts. Only a single skill toss is permitted at this level.
  • Level four is for U12, U17, and for people older than 14. Tucks and layouts are allowed in tumbling. On single-leg, above shoulder height is allowed. Double skill tosses are permitted.
  • Level five is for U12, U17, and for people older than 14. Specialty skills are allowed in tumbling while also including standing and running fulls. In stunting, above shoulder height on one leg is allowed with flips and twists. Tosses can be more aggressive.
  • Level six and level seven are open which means older more than 17 people can be given this. Standing and running fulls are allowed. More flipping can be seen in stunting.
Cheerleading has grown a lot over a couple of years and now is considered an elite sport all over the world.

Purpose Of Cheerleading

It is important to motivate football players to win the match and also cheer for the team with full might. That is what cheerleading is for.

  • Cheerleading is done as a form of encouragement for the team and is very famous in the U.S. It can be anything from cheers, chants, physical activities, or even all of them.
  • Cheers and chants are very common in cheerleading squads just to motivate the team they are rooting for.
  • Students, coaches, and participants come up with these attractive chants and cheers to be behind the team all the way.
  • Cheers incorporate tumbling, jumps, and stunting. Cheers are longer than chants and often get the crowd to respond to the cheers.
  • Chants are different. They are repetitive and short. Chants are usually repeated three times, although, in some instances, they can be more.
  • Different jumps like toe touch, tuck, hurdler, pike, around the world, herkie, double nine, double hook, double jump, and power jump are commonly practiced.
  • Stunting performed are pyramids or mounts mostly. Flyers, bases, back spots, and front spots are types of positions in stunting.
  • Tumbling includes cartwheels, rolls, or round-offs. back-handsprings and round-off back-handsprings, back tucks, layouts, Arabians, twisting layouts (fulls), whip backs, and front tumbling are also seen quite commonly, even though they are complicated.
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