The Evolution of Cheerleading

The Evolution of Cheerleading

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While people have been cheering in one form or another at sporting events seemingly as long as there have been organized sporting events (for instance, see: The Truth About Gladiators and the Thumbs Up), what we’ve come to know as the “American phenomenon of organized cheerleading” dates back to the 19th century, with its genesis coinciding with the rise of collegiate athletics. At this time, only an estimated two percent of the country’s population went to college and, of that small number, nearly all were wealthy, male, and white. Among these individuals’ favorite extracurricular activities were intramural sports, particularly crew, baseball, track and field, and football. However, just like today, not everyone was meant to be a sports star and players occasionally got injured. For those students who couldn’t be on the field but still held school spirit, they were encouraged to support their teams by cheering.

This all brings us to November 6, 1869 when the first official intercollegiate American football game was held between Princeton and Rutgers. It was this game that is generally credited as kicking off the modern, organized sports cheering. Called the Princeton Locomotive and based on the calls made by the New York 7th Regiment when it had passed through Princeton during the Civil War, the specific thing the crowd chanted during the game was a…