The history of cheerleading goes as far back as the late 1880s. The first organized, recorded yell was performed at a pep rally: “Rah, Rah, Rah! TIGER, TIGER, SIS, SIS, SIS! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Aaaaah! PRINCETON, PRINCETON, PRINCETON!” Although a good start, it did not carry over from the pep rally to the game for a few more years. One of Princeton’s alumni, Thomas Peebles, moved to the University of Minnesota and in addition to taking along that first pep rally cheer, he also created a college “fight song.” However, it was Johnny Campbell, a first-year medical student, who led the initially organized cheer at a game in 1898. The inspiration to jump out in front of the bleachers came from two sources: a student letter and a professor’s response. A student fan had written to the school newspaper to complain that their losing team would start winning if it had the backing of the fans. One of the university’s professors took this statement one step further and declared that the collective stimuli of hundreds of students, focused on sending positive energy, would turn the tide of their losing streak. Johnny latched on to the theory and moved the cheers to the game. His example filtered to other campuses, paving the way for bigger changes, thus the history of cheerleading began.
Cheerleading’s Early History
Cheerleading was now a recognized force in schools. “Yell leaders” in the 1930s began to use megaphones, drums, and noisemakers to heighten the excitement. Then came World War II and men left to fight. Women took over cheerleading and began to dominate the sport. In fact, when Laurence “Herkie” Herkimer founded the spirit industry and organized the first cheerleader camp at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas in 1948, 52 girls attended. The camp taught fundamental cheerleading skills. Throughout the next two decades and into the ’70s, the sport branched out to support wrestling, track, and swimming, in addition to the well-established football and basketball. The expansion of cheerleading inevitably attracted the attention of television producers and, in1978, the International Cheerleading Foundation initiated the first nationwide broadcast of the Collegiate Cheerleading Championships.