Cheerleaders are a staple of the sporting scene. Often seen at football games, they are also at other sporting event. Still, football is the main one, but how did cheerleading get started. It wasn’t some sort of organized decision by coaches or schools, but rather it was a spontaneous action that turned into something we all know about and enjoy watching, and something that many girls (and guys too) dream about becoming.
November 2, 1898, is officially recognized as the “birth of cheerleading.” It all started at the University of Minnesota, when student Johnny Campbell directed fans in cheering on the Golden Gophers football team, cheering “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!” That made Campbell the very first cheerleader. The whole thing was so well received, that soon after that, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer today. Good thing the name “yell squad” didn’t take!! Prior to Campbell’s date with history, cheering existed, of course, just not in this new form. Prior to November 2, 1898, the fans cheered at the game…meaning they yelled, screamed, and jumped up and down. Fans that would start cheers in the stands were called “cheerleaders,” on an unofficial basis, but they really weren’t officially leaders, just initiators. That day however, Campbell made history when he jumped down in front of the fans to lead an organized cheer.
I don’t think everyone realizes just how important the cheerleaders are. Sometimes, when the game seems lost, the cheerleaders are solely responsible for lifting the spirits of fans and players alike. Sometimes, it encourages the players to press on, and other times it just tells them, “We love you anyway.” Today, most high school, college, and professional sports teams have cheerleaders, with a few notable exceptions. The Cleveland Browns famously or infamously do not and never have had cheerleaders, and for this year neither do the Bills, Bears, Chargers, Giants, Packers, or Steelers. The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are probably one of the most famous of cheerleading organizations and for them it is a seriously big production. Tryouts are rigorous and highly competitive. The cheerleading squads these days are bigger than they used to be too. There are also competitions that are held each year too. It is now considered a sport in most schools. In fact, in the colleges, the cheerleaders have to sign a contract to be there and plan to stay with it for the entire season. Usually, there are scholarships attached to cheerleading, and the practice session and games are mandatory, with strict rules on allowed absences. Cheerleaders are an important aspect of college sports, and the squads must be dedicated. Cheerleading has come a long way since 1898, and I think most people would agree, that it’s been a good thing.