College Cheerleading


Cheerleading first began at Princeton University in the 1880s when the fans chanted, “Rah rah rah, tiger tiger tiger, sis sis sis, boom boom boom ahhhhhhh, Princeton Princeton Princeton!” as a way to encourage the team and show school spirit at university football games.

A few years later Thomas Peebles, a Princeton graduate, came up with the idea of crowd chanting or cheerleading at the University of Minnesota in 1884. In 1898 Johnny Campbell, a University of Minnesota student, stood in front of the fans, and directed them in a chant, making Campbell the very first cheerleader.

Most American high schools and colleges have organized cheerleading squads made up solely of students. According to the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations, nearly 20 states in the USA now consider cheerleading to be a sport.

Cheerleading is not recognized by any of the major athletic associations, including the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), as a sport but there are over two hundred and twenty five colleges and community colleges that offer full and partial cheerleading scholarships.

For national titles just as basketball, football, baseball, etc. Cheerleaders have been recruited and given college scholarships that have been known to exceed amounts awarded to the school’s other sports teams. Some cheer teams actually put in more hours in the gym than teams such as basketball and football. Cheerleaders have to be in just as good physical condition as any other sport participant. The NCAA rules limit teams to twenty hours a week. But cheerleading isn’t an NCAA-sponsored sport so in many cases the cheerleaders put in more hours than the athletes they cheer for.

It is estimated that there are almost 3 million cheerleaders in the United States, and half as many more on dance teams. Varsity Spirit, largest of about fifty companies catering to the needs of cheerleaders and their coaches had revenue that approached $150 million last year. American Cheerleader magazine was first published in 1994 and now has a circulation of 200,000 with a readership of 1 million.

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