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Learn More About Cheer

Two high school cheerleaders


What is the history of cheer?

Cheering and chanting at sporting events started in the 1860s; in Great Britain, students began rooting in unison for their favorite athletes. Around the same time in the United States, students were experiencing difficult times at the universities from their instructors. After years of rioting and violence, they turned to more proactive activities that they could control, which became the dawn of organized sports. And with that, came cheering.

The first official cheerleader was the University of Minnesota’s Johnny Campbell, who in 1898 roused an audience with a chant that is still used today. The first squads consisted of six men and a “yell leader”; women weren’t allowed to participate until 1923. When the United States entered World War II, college girls finally had the opportunity to take control of the sport.

Modern cheerleading dates back to the 1980s, when clubs began to incorporate more gymnastic moves and competitions were televised for the first time. In 1997, ESPN presented an international all-star cheerleading competition, which generated new interest in countries around the world.

Cheer at the Olympic Games

While professional cheerleading exists in nearly every major sport, there are currently no Olympic teams or events.

What are the current Olympic cheer events?

Cheerleading currently holds a provisional status to become an Olympic sport; to qualify, the International Cheer Union (ICU) established a junior level team for ages 12 through 16 to compete in the ICU World Championships.

Visit USA Cheer to learn more

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