My niece, Siara Harman is one of many girls who were cheerleaders in high school and college. She even won a State Championship and a Grand National Championship with the Kelly Walsh Cheer Squad in 2011. Since it’s beginnings, cheerleading has come a long way. In fact, I doubt if today’s cheerleaders would recognize their earlier counterparts, if they saw them back then. Siara was a skilled cheerleader, and very athletic, and we are all proud of her cheerleading years.

The roots of American cheerleading are closely tied to American football’s roots. The first intercollegiate football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton University and Rutgers University in New Jersey. By the 1880s, Princeton had formed an pep club. Organized cheering started as an all-male activity, as many sports do. As early as 1877, Princeton University had a Princeton Cheer. Basically, it was a fight song that was documented in the February 22, 1877; March 12, 1880; and November 4, 1881, issues of The Daily Princetonian. This cheer was yelled from the stands by students attending games, as well as by the athletes themselves. The cheer, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!” remains in use with slight modifications today, where it is now referred to as the Locomotive. Princeton class of 1882 graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota in 1884. He took with him the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota. The term “Cheer Leader” had been used as early as 1897, with Princeton’s football officials having named three students as Cheer Leaders: Thomas, Easton, and Guerin from Princeton’s classes of 1897, 1898, and 1899, respectively, on October 26, 1897. These students would cheer for the team also at football practices, and special cheering sections were designated in the stands for the games themselves for both the home and visiting teams. On November 2, 1898, the University of Minnesota was on a losing streak. A medical student named Johnny Campbell assembled a group to energize the team and the crowd. Johnny picked up a megaphone and rallied the team to victory with the first organized cheer: “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” With that action, Campbell became the first cheerleader in America. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer today. In 1903, the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded.

In 1923, at the University of Minnesota, women were finally permitted to participate in cheerleading. However, it took time for other schools to follow. In the late 1920s, many school manuals and newspapers that were published still referred to cheerleaders as chap, fellow, and man. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s, when collegiate men were drafted for World War II, creating the opportunity for more women to make their way onto sporting event sidelines. As noted by Kieran Scott in Ultimate Cheerleading: “Girls really took over for the first time.” A report written on behalf of cheerleading in 1955 explained that in larger schools, “occasionally boys, as well as, girls are included,” and in smaller schools, “boys can usually find their place in the athletic program, and cheerleading is likely to remain solely a feminine occupation.” During the 1950s, cheerleading in America also increased in popularity. By the 1960s, some began to consider cheerleading too feminine an extracurricular activity for boys, and by the 1970s, girls primarily cheered at public school games. However, this did not stop its growth. Cheerleading could be found at almost every school level across the country, even youth leagues. In 1975, it was estimated by a man named Randy Neil that over 500,000 students actively participated in American cheerleading from grade school to the collegiate level. He also approximated that 95% of cheerleaders within America were female. Since 1973, cheerleaders have started to attend female basketball and other all-female sports as well. As of 2005, overall statistics show around 97% of all modern cheerleading participants are female, although at the collegiate level, cheerleading is co-ed with about 50% of participants being male.

imageimage My grand niece, Jala is turning 14 years old today, and very soon will begin her final year of middle school. This summer has been a new experience for Jala and her little sister, Kaytlyn. In previous years, their mom, my niece Susan has worked outside the home, so the girls had to be up and heading to daycare by 7:00am. Now that their mom works from home, the girls have been able to sleep in, and then have lazy days around home…something most kids would love to do, but few get to. Of course, with school starting on August 24th, they are getting up early again to get back into the swing of things.

For Jala, the year of sports begins August 22nd with Volleyball practice, so the year is starting out with a busy schedule already. Jala is very athletic, and loves a variety of sports. Last year she participated in Volleyball, Swimming and Diving, Basketball, and Track. I think every parent loves watching their kids in sports, but some things hold a special place in your heart. That’s how it is for Susan with Jala’s diving. Susan loves watching Jala dive. Joann Knox on her colt MollyDiving is such a graceful sport, so I think a lot of people can relate to Susan’s love of Jala’s diving. It is Susan’s hope that Jala will continue to love sports, so she will continue on with them in high school next year.

This summer found Jala, her sister Kaytlyn, and cousins, Weston and Easton traveling to Bear Lake, Idaho in their Great Aunt Pam and Great Uncle Ralph’s new motor home. The kids were very excited about the trip, and about the Cook Family Reunion they were attending. The kids got to stay in the motor home that first night, then they were joined the next day by their grandparents, Debbie and Lynn Cook, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. They rented a little cabin for the rest of the weekend. It had been twelve years since Jala had gone to a reunion, and at two, she didn’t remember the last one at all. Jala got to know lots of cousins and other family members this trip. It almost like having a whole new set of forever friends.

This weekend, Jala got to go with her other grandparents to the Tensleep Music Festival as a birthday present. It was to be a weekend full of concerts, what more could a teenager ask for. Susan is pretty sure that Jala is having a fantastic time, because she has not heard from her once. I guess there is too much going on to have time to call home. That’s the way to know that she was having fun, but it can leave a mom feeling a bit lonely.

Living in the country, on a place with horses, allows Jala the chance to ride once in a while. She loves it. She
imageimageand her Papa Griffith like to ride together, but it hasn’t been often enough to suit Jala. Once the horse gets used to her more, they will allow her to ride alone too, and that will give her lots more time on the horse. Being a horse woman could be in Jala’s blood, since her great grandma, Joann Schulenberg, absolutely loved horses, and spent many hours riding them as a girl. Today is Jala’s birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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