8 Facinating Facts About College Cheerleading


Maybe you’ve been a cheerleading member in your younger years, or maybe you just saw the slew of “Bring It On” movies one after another (or perhaps the hilarious “Fired Up”).

Either way, there’s nothing quite like cheerleading squads to inspire and bolster the team spirit, especially during the national competitions.

Here are some interesting facts you probably didn’t know about college cheerleading.

8 Intriguing College Cheerleading Facts

The First Official Cheerleader Was a Man

first cheerleader Johnny Campbell

Johnny Campbell first cheerleader image from: twitter

There were already organized cheer teams in Europe, but the first school to have its crowd of students and visitors cheering for its teams with scripted lyrics was Princeton University back in 1884.

A few years later, one student, Thomas Peebles, who was a Princeton graduate, went to the University of Minnesota and led the entire crowd in 1898. He created different cheers for the university’s different games.

In the later part of the year, six students, led by Johnny Campbell, from the university led the cheer. Campbell became known as the country’s first official cheerleader because he was the first to lead a team into coordinating cheers and movements for the school.

Cheerleading Was a Men’s Activity

cheerleading men

photo source: thesocietypages.org

On Oct. 26, 1897, three Princeton University male students cheered for the football game. There, the word “cheer leader” was used.

The University of Minnesota, not to be outdone, organized a Yell Leader Group with six male students.

Some years later, cheerleading was taken to a whole new level when Gamma Sigma, a fraternity, was founded to lead cheers for school games.

Women Joined Cheer Because of the War

women cheerleading war

image source: whenintime.com

Cheerleading teams started with the men, but women joined the force in the early 1920s because of World War II, when many of the male students were drafted for the war.

The women’s cheer squads set the trend for the kind of cheerleading known today.

The women used megaphones and gymnastic moves, which form the basis of modern cheerleading.

The “Herkie Jump” Named After Founder NCA

herkie jump cheerleading

photo source: azcentral.com

Do what what’s a “herkie”? It’s that jump or cheer position that cheerleaders do when one leg is raised to the front, one hand in the air, and the other leg is bent backwards.

It was actually named after Lawrence Russell Herkimer, the man who founded the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) in 1948.

He formed the organization so that he could start cheer camps or clinics. The first one was done in Sam Houston State Teachers College (it’s now called Sam Houston State University).

Herkimer introduced the “herkie jump”, the use of pom-poms, and the traditional ankle-length skirt and long-sleeved sweater uniform, which he manufactured from his cheerleader supply company, called “Cheerleader & Danz Team”.

Herkimer himself was a cheerleader, from the Southern Methodist University. Called the “Father of Modern Cheerleading” or the “Grandfather of Cheerleading”, Herkimer died at 89 years old just last year.

First Team Recognized Cheer Squad Was Football Team

dallas cowboy cheerleaders 1972

Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders 1972 image source: pinterest

It’s not really a surprise that the first athletic team who had a cheerleading squad was a National Football League team, the Dallas Cowboys.

They had a cheer team for their 72 – 73 seasons, which drew a lot of crowd, not just for the play, but for the cheer team who had complicated dance moves, stunts, and sexier outfits.

Most Injuries by Women Athletes From Cheerleading

cheerleading injuries

photo courtesy: healthaim.com

Although it’s not as gritty and dirty as basketball, volleyball, or football, cheerleading has serious, dangerous, and even fatal consequences if not done right.

In 2006, Kristi Yamaoka from Southern Illinois University lost her balance and fell to the ground. She suffered a concussion and cracked vertebra.

In 2008, a college student, Lauren Chang, a graduate of Newton North High School was kicked in the chest. She died due to her lungs collapsing. According to medical reports, the injury Chang sustained was similar to a car crash or falling from a tall building.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research revealed that injuries from cheerleading made up over 60% of the reports.

College Cheerleading has 50% Male Members

college cheerleading males females

photo source: okaloosaschools.com

Most high school cheerleading squads have only a few male members, with more than half being female (more than 90% of all cheerleaders are female), but cheer squads in colleges are more diverse.

About half of the team is male, which is a pretty wise decision when it comes to doing stunts, tosses, and flips.

Also, since cheerleading is considered a national sport, cheerleaders can get offers of athletic scholarships or financial aid from universities.

Many Male Celebrity Personalities Were Cheerleaders

george bush cheerleading

George Bush Cheerleading image by: Pinterest

Considering the roots is from male cheerleading, it’s no surprise then that many of the male celebrities you know today were college cheerleaders back in the day.

George W. Bush was a cheerleader from Phillips Academy. In fact, he led the team. Franklin D. Roosevelt attended Harvard University, and was a cheerleader for the football team.

Another president, Ronald Reagan was a cheerleader for his squad when he studied at Eureka College. Actor Samuel L. Jackson was also on the cheer team when he went to Riverside High in Tennessee.

Cheerleading is a fun experience, with a lot of history, and a chance to join heart-pumping competitions. Nearly every college has one, and each team can offer opportunities for athletic growth and unforgettable college experiences.

Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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