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.
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