Cheerleading Fun Facts & History

Cheerleader jumping in mid air, holding pompoms, portrait
Mike Powell / Getty Images

Cheerleading is a very popular sport, but how much do you know about its history? Brush up on a few of the details that led to what we know cheerleading to be today. It's fun trivia that you can take back to your squad.

Fun Facts in Cheerleading History

  • Cheerleading is over 100 years old. In the beginning, all cheerleaders were men.
  • The first cheerleaders in the U.S. were organized by a Princeton graduate named Thomas Peebles. It's said that he moved to Minnesota and there he spurred the idea of organized cheers to support the University of Minnesota football team.
  • In the November 2, 1898, football game between Princeton and the University of Minnesota, six male cheerleaders entertained the crowd for the first time. They were led by Johnny Campbell and this date is considered the birth of cheerleading.
  • It's reported that Campbell's first cheer was, "Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!" This apparently led to the popular "sis boom bah" cheer.
  • In 1903, the Gamma Sigma fraternity was founded as the first for "cheer leaders."
  • Women joined cheerleading squads in 1923. During World War II, the shift to mostly female cheer squads began.
  • In the 1900s, megaphones came into play. Pom poms were invented in the 1930s and were originally called "pom poms." 
  • The National Cheerleader Association (NCA) was founded by Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer in 1948. Herkimer had cheered for Southern Methodist University and the first cheer clinics were held in Huntsville, Texas.
  • There are at least four million cheerleaders in thirty-one countries. Some statistics point to 3.61 million cheerleaders in the U.S. alone (as of 2015).
  • 97 percent of all cheerleaders are female. However, almost 50 percent of collegiate cheerleaders are male. 
  • 80 percent of schools in the U.S. have cheerleading squads. The most popular sport for cheerleading is football. 
  • 12 percent of cheerleaders are aged 5 to 13 years and 12 percent are dancers.
  • 83 percent of all cheerleaders have a 'B' grade point average or better.
  • 62 percent of cheerleaders are involved in a second sport
  • About 98 percent of all female cheerleaders were former gymnasts, compared to just 20 percent of all male cheerleaders. 
  • The cheerleading capital of the U.S. is considered to be Texas. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were the first organized squad in the NFL. Texas is also where a mother was accused in 1991 of hiring a hitman to kill her daughter’s rival in a cheerleading competition. 
  • In 1983, ESPN was the first to broadcast the National High School Cheerleading Competition.
  • At the University of Kentucky, the average cheerleader is 5'0" to 5'1" and weighs 97 pounds. 
  • The average cheerleading squad size in Britain is 18.4 (per club) and the average age is 15. Of the 85 known squads in Britain, almost eighty are British Cheerleading Association members.
  • Country music star Lila McCann performed cheerleading routines for the Queen Of England. 
  • George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, and Franklin Roosevelt were all cheerleaders.
  • Some of the most common cheerleading injuries are broken arms and busted lips. Most happen during pyramids.
  • The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors (AACCA) and the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education (NCSSE) are important organizations in modern cheerleading. They set safety standards and provide training to ensure fewer injuries.
  • Circulation for American Cheerleader magazine is estimated at 1.2 million. It launched in 1995.