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Cheerleading as sport- Rewind to Johnny Campbell on 2nd November, 1898 at Minnesota

Though Cheerleading originated in Britain, but an American is regarded as the first Cheerleader. Johnny Campbell’s Cheerleading at a Football match in 1898 made him the very first cheerleader and November 2 the official birth date of organized Cheerleading.

Cheerleading is an organized sports activity; it combines dance, gymnastics, and stunt elements, performed by cheerleaders in one-or two minutes, to celebrate an interesting moment in a match in order to boost a team’s spirit or performance.

History

Cheerleading originated in Britain in 1860s and spread to the United States in late 1870s. The ‘Princeton Cheer’ became hugely popular when fans began cheering from the stands at Princeton University’s football matches. In 1884, Thomas Peebles, a Princeton graduate, moved to Minnesota and introduced the idea of cheering from the crowd at the Football games of University of Minnesota. But, Minnesota did not get the desired win each time the crowds cheered for them.

However, on 2nd November 1898, at a match between Minnesota and Princeton University, Minnesota student Johnny Campbell led an organized cheer “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!”. The match went in Minnesota’s favour with the University team winning by 17-6. Campbell’s Cheerleading did not only change Football Minnesota’s luck, but it created a lasting trend, making Johnny Campbell the father of Cheerleaders and November 2 the official birth date of organized Cheerleading.

Soon after, in 1903, the first Cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded. They used a megaphone to enhance their voices and stuck to Campbell’s original cheer. Till then Cheerleading was largely dominated by male. But in the 1920s, when athletic motions and gymnastic moves were first incorporated into routines, Cheerleading became a female activity. The women cheerleaders sported ankle-length skirts and university sweaters. Along with gymnastics and dance moves, they started using paper pom-poms to bring more colours to their show.

Tournaments and Organizations

In 1948 Lawrence Herkimer, a former cheerleader at Southern Methodist University, founded the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) to hold Cheerleading workshops. The first workshop was held with more than 50 participants in that year. That number grew to 350 in the following year, and by 1950s most high schools had their own Cheerleading squads.

In 1965, Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pom-pon, which was introduced into competitions. There were plenty of organized cheer competitions such as, ‘The Top Ten College Cheerleading Squads’, ‘Cheerleader All America’ etc. where awards were distributed by the International Cheerleading Foundation. The organization was later rechristened as the World Cheerleading Association (WCA). In 1978 CBS broadcasted Collegiate Cheerleading Championships, through which competitive Cheerleading went global.

By 1997, Cheerleading was recognized as an independent sport, attracting global attention. While traditionalists deny accepting Cheerleading as a sport, an argument can be raised that it is more than just standing on the sidelines and yelling. It can be considered as a sport as it requires intense physical exertion, a high level of skill and superb athleticism. With the rise in its worldwide popularity, girls, boys, men and women have accepted it as one-of-a-kind sport through which they can showcase their athletic prowess and crowd engagement skills on global sporting events.

About Poulomi Kundu

PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata. After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata. In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer. Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream. So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

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