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Cheerleading history, an essential component of American sports culture, has evolved significantly since its inception.

Dive into the fascinating world of cheerleading history and explore its origins, growth, and impact on sports today!

Let’s cheer on!


Cheerleading History Summary

  • ⏳ Origins and Evolution: Cheerleading began in the late 19th century as an all-male activity to support college sports teams. Women joined the scene in the 1920s, and cheerleading transformed into a dynamic performance art combining gymnastics, dance, and elaborate stunts.
  • 🚀 Rise to Prominence: The birth of professional cheerleading teams in the 1960s and the formation of competitive cheerleading organizations in the 1970s and 1980s propelled cheerleading to new heights. Today, it is a highly-regarded competitive sport with worldwide recognition and participation.
  • 🥇 Noteworthy Growth and Adaptation: Cheerleading has continuously evolved through incorporating diverse influences, incorporating new techniques, and embracing advancements in safety and training. The sport’s outreach programs and recognition as a provisional Olympic sport underscore its lasting impact on the global sports stage.

Cheerleading History Timeline


Considered the birthplace of cheerleading, the University of Minnesota is where student Johnny Campbell led the first organized cheer at a college football game. With his fellow student supporters, Campbell formed the school’s first spirit squad to cheer on their team.

This event marked the beginning of cheerleading as an organized sport in the United States. Cheerleading squads quickly became more common among colleges and universities across the nation.


In the 1920s, women started joining cheerleading squads, and all-female cheer teams began to form. At this time, cheerleading underwent a significant transformation, becoming more focused on gymnastics and dance elements.

Also, during this decade, the initial cheerleading uniforms were introduced, consisting of sweaters, skirts, and saddle shoes. These uniforms established a recognizable visual identity for cheerleading and set the foundation for the athletic wear we see today.


In 1948, Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer, a former cheerleader at Southern Methodist University, founded the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA). By conducting workshops and cheerleading camps across the nation, the NCA played a vital role in standardizing and promoting the sport of cheerleading.

Herkimer is also credited with inventing the “Herkie” jump, the popular spirit stick, and the iconic pom-poms widely associated with cheerleading today.


The 1960s marked the beginning of professional cheerleading teams. In 1961, the Baltimore Colts became the first National Football League (NFL) team to have an official cheerleading squad. This development significantly raised the profile of cheerleading within the national sports landscape.

Later in the decade, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders debuted their iconic uniforms and elaborate routines, setting a new standard for professional cheerleading and helping to elevate the sport’s reputation and popularity.

1970s – 1980s

In the late 1970s, cheerleading took a competitive turn with the establishment of the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and the American Cheerleading Association (ACA). These organizations facilitated the growth of competitive cheerleading as a distinct sport apart from sideline cheering.

Throughout the 1980s, cheerleading continued to integrate advanced choreography, gymnastics, and stunts, significantly raising the bar for competitive cheerleading teams. Competitions like the National High School Cheerleading Championship helped to popularize and define the sport.


In the 1990s, competitive cheerleading experienced significant international growth. Countries such as Australia, Canada, and Japan started introducing cheerleading into their schools and forming national competitive cheer organizations.

This decade also saw a rise in all-star cheerleading teams, which were not associated with schools or sports teams. These privately-run clubs focused solely on competitive cheerleading and produced highly skilled athletes.

2000s – 2010s

In the early 2000s, the sport of cheerleading gained even more recognition as ESPN began broadcasting competitions to a wider audience. This increased exposure led to greater public awareness of cheerleading as a competitive sport.

The 2010s witnessed further advancements in cheerleading, including the establishment of the International Cheer Union (ICU) and its recognized status as a member of the International Olympic Committee, supporting the sport’s potential inclusion in future Olympic Games.



Who invented Cheerleading?

Johnny Campbell, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, invented Cheerleading. He led the crowd in a cheer during a football game in 1898, marking the birth of cheerleading.

How did Cheerleading become so popular?

Cheerleading’s popularity grew with its spread to high schools, colleges, and professional sports. Key factors include the inclusion of acrobatic stunts, dance routines, and the introduction of competitive cheerleading.

Where did Cheerleading originate?

Cheerleading originated in the United States, specifically at the University of Minnesota, as a way to generate crowd participation and support for sports teams.

Jessica D'Addabbo, originally from California, has excelled in competitive cheerleading for six years, notably as a flyer and tumbler, winning first place at a national competition. Transitioning from her athletic achievements, she is now graduating from medical school in the Midwest and ready to apply her unique blend of discipline and teamwork in her future endeavors. She's also the creator behind the travel blog, travelandtannins.com

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