The debate whether or not cheerleading should be considered a sport is still happening, but did you know that cheering has been around nearly 140 years? That’s a long time! Cheerleading has definitely evolved along the way–from cheering on the sidelines of college football games to the intense athleticism and skill it requires today–which has led to some really interesting factoids!

For instance, did you know that four United States presidents were former male cheerleaders? That’s right! Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush all cheered in college. Other famous cheerleaders include Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Simpson, Cameron Diaz, Fergie, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, and even Samuel L. Jackson!

Celebrities aside, there are several turning points in the history of cheer that every cheerleader should know:

  • Cheering started at a football game at Princeton University in 1877, when the crowd participated in the “Princeton Cheer”–which is still used today although renamed “The Locomotive”.
  • The first cheerleader was a University of Minnesota student by the name of Johnny Campbell. He directed an organized cheer with a crowd for the first time in November 1898.
  • Cheerleading was a man’s sport until 1923, and the first male college fraternity was formed in 1903 named Gamma Sigma.
  • During WWII, women began to dominate cheerleading and it was during this time that gymnastics, megaphones, and tumbling became incorporated into cheer.
  • Pom poms were invented by Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer in the 1940s, but were first called pom-pons! He also invented the Spirit Stick, the ‘Herkie’ jump, and found the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) in 1948.
  • Pop Warner football began including programs for Pop Warner cheerleading in 1967, allowing girls as young as five to join.
  • The Indianapolis Colts were the first NFL team to host a professional cheerleading squad, but the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were the first to gain national recognition during the 1972-73 season.
  • The first official stunt was a ‘liberty’ in 1976, which was created and taught by the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA).
  • All Star divisions were created in 1987 by the NCA.
  • Out of 2.9 million American high school females, only 3% are cheerleaders. 
  • Even though it was formalized in the United States, cheerleading exists in 79 countries today with over 4.5 million cheerleaders worldwide.

Do you know other great cheerleading facts? Let us know what you've learned about your sport!