Cheerleading- From Boys To Beauties
Today’s scantily-clad cheerleading beauties started off as college boys howling into megaphones trying to galvanize school spirit at football games.
The first known school chant originated in the 1880’s by a pep squad at all-male Princeton University. But it wasn’t until 1898 when a certain Johnny Campbell led the first organized cheer to fight a losing streak at the University of Minnesota.
"Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!" variations of this spirited shout are still in use today.
For over two decades, the on-campus recreational business of yelling and rousing fan support at athletic competitions remained exclusively a boys' domain.
Yell leaders of their day included Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Girls finally entered the fray in 1923 and began drawing crowd attention with light routines of gymnastics and acrobatics. Pompoms were introduced in the 1930’s to enhance the visual effect.
The feminization of cheerleading took off in the 1940’s after men left for the armed forces to fight in World War II. By the end of the decade, the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) was formed to hold clinics and workshops in what would eventually become a quintessential American pastime at all levels- high school, college, pro, competitive.
Texan Lawrence Herkimer, founder of the NCA and the first company dedicated to the business of cheerleading, invented the “herkie” jump, the “spirit stick” and also patented the hidden handle behind pompoms.
While men’s attire remained relatively unchanged, women’s original ankle-length hemlines moved north with each passing fashion fad.
Inevitably, cheerleading’s growing sex appeal and football's expanding television audience lifted the choreographed activity onto the professional stage, mixing sports and entertainment.
The Baltimore Colts were the first football franchise to adopt a cheerleading squad in 1954. The Dallas Cowboys introduced their iconic and revealing star-spangled uniforms in 1972 .
Other teams followed and even attached catchy names to their new cutie-squad additions: Chicago “Honey Bears”, Minnesotta “Vi-Queens”, Miami “Dolphin Dolls”, etc.
Though many of the designations were later dropped due to their controversial appellations, some of the more sanitized names still remain like the Cincinnati “Ben-Gals” and New Orleans “Saintsations”.
Turning back the clock a hundred years, we can only be amused at how last century's “rah, rah” male clubs evolved into today's troupes of swimsuit calendar ladies.
TENNIS June 12, 2009 Former German tennis star Boris Becker weds model Sharlely Kerssenberg in St. Moritz, Switzerland; the couple would separate in 2018. Turning professional in 1984, Becker won six grand slam singles- 2 Australian, 3 Wimbledon, 1 US Open- and retired 15 years later. At age 17, Becker was the youngest male at the time to claim a grand slam when he won Wimbledon in 1985.
SOCCER June 19, 1999 Team USA dispatches Denmark 3-0 at the opening round of the Women’s World Cup, which was held in the U.S. The ladies would go on to sweep Group A and defeat Germany at the quarterfinals, Brazil at the semifinals and China in penalties (5-4) for the World Cup title. With over 90,000 spectators in attendance at the Rose Bowl, it was the most watched event ever in women’s sports.
BASKETBALL June 13, 1989 The Detroit Pistons sweep the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 for their first NBA championship. The tournament was a rematch of the previous year’s series which saw the Lakers defeat the Pistons 4-3. Detroit’s Joe Dumars was named MVP for averaging 27.3 ppg. The Pistons would go on to wear the national crown again in 1990 after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.
GOLF June 17, 1979 Hale Irwin takes the U.S. Open, firing an even 284 and beating former champions Gary Player and Jerry Pate by two strokes. It was the second major victory for Irwin, who went on to win his third and last in 1990; all three majors were at the U.S. Open. Irwin turned professional in 1968 and is the all-time leader in the PGA Tour Champions (seniors > 50) with 45 wins, including 7 senior majors.