Cheerleading sprung on the scene in the 1880s with the crowd chanting to cheer on, or encourage, their team at sporting events. In 1884 the first organized yell occurred on the sideline of a Princeton football game. This cheer was led by Thomas Peebler.
If you're looking to improve your cheerleading or just seeking to prevent cheerleading injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine learn more about The Stretching Handbook and how it can improve your fitness.
Peebler took the cheer to the University of Minnesota and organized a group of men to lead the crowd in cheers at games. It wasn't until 1898 that University of Minnesota cheerleader, Johnny Campbell, jumped out in front of the crowd and led them in an organized cheer. Campbell became the first official cheerleader and November 2nd, 1898 became the birth date of organized cheerleading.
University of Minnesota was also the first school to have a "fight song." Shortly after Campbell became the first cheerleader, the University organized a group of 6 men to lead yells at the game; they were called "yell leaders." In the 1900s the use of the megaphone became common practice. The first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was formed in 1903.
In the early years, cheerleading was an all-male activity. It wasn't until the 1920s that females began to get involved. This was due in part to the lack of female athletic opportunities. Then, in the 1940s, when many men were going off to war, the women took over the cheering. Women have gradually taken over the sport, with about 97% of all cheerleaders today being female. However, in college cheering the percentage of males participating rises close to the 50% mark.
In 1948, Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer formed the National Cheerleading Association and held the first camp for cheerleaders in Texas. There were 52 girls in attendance. In the 1950s and 60s, college cheerleaders began conducting clinics to teach high school age athletes cheerleading skills. It was during this time that Fred Gastoff introduced the vinyl pom used today. Before this it was made of paper or cloth material. The 1960s saw many other changes, as well. The annual ranking of the "Top Ten College Cheer Squads" started, and the International Cheerleading Foundation began the "Cheerleader All-America" awards.
The 1960s also saw the birth of professional cheerleading squads in the NFL. The Baltimore Colts was the first team to introduce a cheerleading squad. The Dallas Cowboys' Cheerleaders brought professional cheering into the spotlight with their Broadway-style dances and revealing outfits in the early 1970s. Cheerleading spread to other sports as well. Basketball and football were the traditional sports, but cheerleading squads began popping up on the sidelines of many different games.
Cheerleading hit the national airwaves when the Collegiate Cheerleading Championships was aired on CBS-TV in the spring of 1978. This spawned the explosion of high school and collegiate cheerleading competitions. In the 1980s, due to the increased interest in the sport, universal standards were developed in safety and courses began for collegiate coaches to ensure these safety standards were followed.
Cheering requires a great degree of flexibility and strength. Balance is essential to the cheerleader, as well. Muscular endurance, to perform repeated stunts and avoid fatigue, is also important to successful cheering.
Strong legs and hips are a must for the cheerleader, due to the jumping and tumbling performed in many routines. The dancing also requires a strong lower body. Overall conditioning is required to complete many of the activities expected of a cheerleader. Many squads have a minimum conditioning standard that must be met to make the team.
The major muscles used by the cheerleader are:
A good conditioning program that focuses on strength, endurance, and especially flexibility, will keep the cheerleader performing at peak levels.
Most Common Cheerleading Injuries
Cheerleading is a non contact sport, but the body is still subjected to a great deal of violent impact. The impact occurs with the floor during stunts, jumps, and tumbling. The danger of traumatic injury increases with faster, higher-flying, energetic routines.
Cheerleading as a sport has taken steps to reduce the number of major injuries, however, like any sport, injuries do occur. The cheerleader may succumb to ankle fractures, muscle and tendon injuries (Strains), knee sprains, neck and/or back injuries, and head injuries (although the last two are rare, they can be severe if they occur.)
The Top 3 Cheerleading Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for cheerleading; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
|Elbow-out Rotator Stretch: Stand with your hand behind the middle of your back and your elbow pointing out. Reach over with your other hand and gently pull your elbow forward.|
|Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.|
|Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.|
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.