Cheerleading today is dominated by young women, but in its early years, it was an all-male activity.
Historians trace the start of cheerleading to the 1880s at Princeton University, where "pep clubs" were organized to cheer on the school's football team from the stands, according to The International Cheer Union.
The first on-field performance is recorded as taking place on Nov. 2, 1898, when a University of Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell jumped onto the field during a football game with a megaphone and led the crowd in cheering, "Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!"
Soon after, the university organized a "yell leader" squad of six male students, who still use Mr. Campbell's original cheer.
From there, the sport quickly spread to universities across the United States, where organized squads would cheer on the sidelines at both football and basketball games. While female cheerleaders started to appear about 1923, it wasn't until the 1940s -- when most young men were fighting in World War II -- that the sport began to feature young women, according to the international organization.
By the 1960s, cheerleading had become widely popular in high schools. During subsequent decades, various organizations, such as the National Cheerleaders Association and the Universal Cheerleaders Association, helped the activity make the transition to a competitive sport.
Over the years, in part propelled by the rise of nonscholastic, all-star teams in the late 1980s, cheerleading began to incorporate more tumbling and stunting activities, making cheerleading the intense sport it is today.neigh_west - neigh_north - neigh_east - neigh_south