Cheerleading is not just about slick dance moves and pom poms, it’s so much more than that – more like a cool mix of artistic and rhythmic gymnastics with a street dance twist. Expect extraordinary balancing acts, frenzied flipping, tossing and twirling, and moves that wouldn’t look out of place in the Olympic Games.
Cheerleading originated in the United States as a means of motivating participating athletes. It also sought to encourage audience participation in the cheering process. It is thought that the first organised cheerleader was a Minnesota student Johnny Campbell, who first directed a crowd in cheering at a football match in 1898.
Soon after, more organised cheer squads consisting solely of males were established. In was not until the post-First World War period that women started to get involved and gymnastic and tumbling started to slowly be introduced. These days, it is estimated that 97 percent of cheerleading participants overall are female.
Cheerleading has developed over the years to the extent that some people argue its right to be considered a genuine sport in its own right – much like other artistic sports such as gymnastics, synchronised swimming, figure skating or diving where scores are awarded by judges.
Growing interest and popularity
Cheerleading is a very physical activity requiring a great degree of skill and often a serious risk of injury. There are frequent competitions which see cheerleading groups put to the test. Some of these are broadcast on network TV and the success of movies such as the Bring it On franchise has led to a growing interest in cheerleading across the world. In addition to its popularity in the US, cheerleading is also regularly participated in many other countries including Canada, Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the UK.
More and more schools are adding cheerleading to their school activities as a great means of engaging their pupils in fun yet great physical activity. Regular competition helps give it a competitive edge. Cheerleading is also seen at a range of sports including football, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, volleyball, baseball, and also Twenty20 Cricket.