Cheerleading is an athletic activity that uses organized routines made up of elements from dance, gymnastics, and stunting to cheer on sports teams at games and matches, and/or as a competitive sport. A cheerleading performer is called a cheerleader. It is most common in North America but has spread worldwide.

Cheerleading first started at Princeton University in the 1880s with the crowd chant, "Rah rah rah, tiger tiger tiger, sis sis sis, boom boom boom ahhhhhhh, Princeton Princeton Princeton!" as a way to encourage school spirit at football games. A few years later, Princeton graduate Thomas Peebles introduced the idea of organized crowd chanting to the University of Minnesota in 1884, but it was not until 1898 that University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell stood in front of the crowd, and directed them in a chant, making Campbell the very first (albeit male) cheerleader. Soon after that, the University of Minnesota organized a "yell leader" squad of 4 male students.

Although it is estimated that 90% of today's cheerleading participants are female, cheerleading started out as an all-male activity. Females started to participate in cheerleading in the 1920s, due to limited availability of female collegiate sports. By the 1940s, it was a largely female activity.

Cheerleading is most closely associated with American football, and to a lesser degree basketball. Sports such as football(soccer), ice hockey, and wrestling rarely have cheerleaders, and some sports like baseball have none at all.

In 1948, Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer formed the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) as a way to hold cheerleading clinics. The National Cheerleaders Association held its first clinic in 1949 with 52 girls in attendance. The next year, the clinic had grown to 350 cheerleaders. By the 1950s, most American high schools had formed cheerleading squads. By the 1960s, cheerleading had grown to be a staple in American high school and collegiate sports. Organized cheerleading competitions began to crop up with the first ranking of the "Top Ten College Cheerleading Squads" and "Cheerleader All America" awards given out by the International Cheerleading Foundation (now the World Cheerleading Association or WCA) in 1967. In 1978, America was introduced to competitive cheerleading by the first broadcast of Collegiate Cheerleading Championships on CBS.

In the 1960s National Football League (NFL) teams began to organize professional cheerleading teams. It was the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders who gained the spotlight with their revealing outfits and sophisticated dance moves, which debuted in the 1972-1973 season, but were first seen widely in Super Bowl X (1976). This caused the image of cheerleaders to permanently change, with many other NFL teams emulating them. Most of the professional teams' "cheerleading" squads would more accurately be described as dance teams by today's standards; as they rarely, if ever, actively encourage crowd noise or perform modern cheerleading moves.

The 1980s saw the onset of modern cheerleading with more difficult stunts and gymnastics being incorporated into routines. Cheerleading organizations started applying safety guidelines and offering courses on safety training for coaches and sponsors. Today, cheerleading has grown to an estimated 4 million participants in the United States alone. While cheerleading is still commonly viewed as primarily American, there are established programs in Canada, Great Britain, and several other countries.

The 2000 major motion picture Bring It On was a movie based on cheerleading. Followed by Bring It On Again and Bring It On: All or Nothing.

Every sideline cheerleading team has their "signature" cheers and chants. Most of the time the cheerleaders and coaches come up with these cheers/chants, although there are a few professional specialists, such as Krazy George Henderson.

Cheers are often longer than chants and usually incorporate jumps, tumbling, or stunting. They tend to focus on cheering for a mascot and getting the crowd to respond. Each word is usually assigned a motion.

Chants are short and repetitive. They are usually repeated three times, but can be varied. They usually have minimal motions that can be performed while standing in a line or just clapped out by a beat.

In the early 1990s, cheerleading teams not associated with schools or sports leagues, whose main objective is competition, began to emerge. All-star cheerleading involves a squad of anywhere between 5-35+ females and/or males. The squad prepares almost year-round for many different competition appearances, but they only actually perform for up to 2½ minutes during their routines. The numbers of competitions a team participates in varies from team to team, but generally, most teams tend to participate in six or seven competitions a year. During a competition routine, a squad covers everything from stunting to tumbling to dancing. There is custom music for the entire routine. Teams create their routines to an eight-count system and apply that to the music so the team members execute the elements being performed with precise timing and synchronization.

All-star competitive cheerleaders are placed into divisions which are grouped based upon age and ability level. Judges at the competition watch for illegal moves from the group or any of its members. Here, an illegal move is something that is not allowed in that division, due to difficulty and safety restrictions. More generally, judges look at the difficulty and execution of stunts and tumbling, synchronization, the sharpness of the motions in the dance, as well as the cheer (if applicable), and overall routine execution.

All-star cheerleading is a relatively young sport, but is gaining popularity at a rapid pace.

The foremost competition for all-star cheerleading is the annual USASF World Championships held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. Since its inception in 2004, teams must qualify for the event by finishing at or near the top at one of several qualifying competitions. US teams have won the vast majority of the medals, but an increasing number of strong teams from around the globe have come to compete in the event in recent years. This competition has grown in popularity and prestige since its beginning as a small competition in 2004. In 2006, over 100 teams from 11 different countries competed in the event.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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