Leading the Cheers

The crowd plays a very important part in sporting events. A loud group of fans can make the home team play better; by inspiring the players to do their best. But who inspires the fans?

That would be the cheerleaders!

In many sports, particularly basketball and football, the cheerleaders get the crowd going. When the crowd gets going, the team usually follows. Cheerleading takes a lot of work.

Athleticism: If you attend a college football or basketball game, some of the stunts cheerleaders do are simply amazing. In takes a tremendous amount of strength, flexibility and control to toss each other in the air, do flips and other tricks that are very similar to gymnastics routines. Cheerleaders work hard and practice every day in an effort to do the best job they can on game day.

History: In high school sports, cheerleading is a largely female-dominated sport. However, in college sports, there is a fairly equal balance between male and female cheerleaders. It's common to see a group of both men and women charging onto the field or court to help get the crowd into the game. This wasn't always the case. When college sports first started to grow in popularity, in the late 1800s, it was strictly a male activity. It is said that the first cheers started at Princeton in the 1890s, and the University of Minnesota fielded the first cheerleading team in 1903. Over the next two decades, more and more women became interested in the sport and by the 1920s it was a co-ed activity.

Competition: Today, there are cheerleading competitions all over the country, just like in every other sport. While teams don't necessarily play against each other, their routines are scored by a panel of judges and cheer squads are able to compete against each other. The first televised cheerleading competitions began in the 1970s, and now are broadcast nationwide. In order to succeed in these competitions, cheerleaders of all ages have to put in hours and hours of practice in order to perform to the best of their abilities. It's hard work, but it's worth it to hear the roar of the crowd.

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