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10 Things You Might Not Know About Cheerleading

Sports 6 March 2024
FISU Cheer fun facts

Cheerleading, often spotlighted for its captivating athleticism and synchronized cheers, holds a trove of intriguing facts beyond the glittering pom-poms and halftime spectacles. Whether you experienced cheerleading first-hand, saw it on halftime, or just on the TV screens in movies like Bring it On or Hellcats, we bring you 10 interesting facts about cheer you’ve got to read. 

Men Started Cheerleading

Contrary to popular belief, the roots of cheerleading stretch back to the 1860s, originating across the pond, in Great Britain, where it began as a male-dominated pursuit. From the inaugural cheers led by Thomas Peebles and Johnny Campbell to the emergence of the first all-male cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, women didn’t step onto the cheerleading scene until nearly four decades later.

Global Phenomenon

With approximately 4 million cheerleaders spanning 31 countries worldwide, including a substantial contingent in the USA, cheerleading boasts a global presence. Surprisingly, a staggering 97% of today’s cheerleaders are female, reflecting the evolving landscape of this vibrant sport.

Four Presidents Were Cheerleaders

Beyond their political prowess, four U.S. presidents – Franklin D. Roosevelt (Harvard College), Dwight D. Eisenhower (West Point), Ronald Reagan (Eureka College) and George W. Bush (Phillips Academy) —once showcased their spirited side as cheerleaders during their school days. Their cheerleading exploits echoed through the halls of history spanning from the 1900s to the 1960s. 

Leading Ladies

As the 20th century unfolded, cheerleading underwent a transformative shift, evolving from a male-dominated domain to one predominantly led by women. Among the ranks of notable former cheerleaders stand iconic figures such as Madonna and Meryl Streep, illustrating the diverse paths paved by cheerleading luminaries.

Evolution of Pom-Poms

Initially conceived as mere decorative embellishments crafted from paper, pom-poms underwent a revolutionary evolution with the introduction of handle-equipped versions in 1953. Subsequent refinements in 1965 heralded the dawn of the modern pom-pom, transforming it into an essential accessory for cheerleaders worldwide.

Biggest Cheer Pyramid

Sixty cheerleaders made a giant pyramid during a national cheerleading competition in Tauranga (New Zealand), making the Guinness World Record. The cheerleading pyramid had to be a minimum of three levels high and held for at least 30 seconds. It happened in August 2017 replacing the old record for the Largest cheerleading pyramid of 46 people.  

 Photo: Sixty cheerleaders made the World's Largest Cheerleading Pyramid during a national cheerleading competition in Tauranga. Photo: John Borren

Largest Cheerleading Cheer in China

In a monumental display of unity and spirit, over 2,102 individuals joined forces to execute the largest cheerleading cheer ever recorded in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. This monumental achievement, duly noted by the Guinness Book of World Records, underscored cheerleading’s burgeoning global footprint.

International Ascendance

Fueled by televised broadcasts showcasing exhilarating championships, cheerleading transcended borders, igniting fervent interest on a global scale. In 2004, the formation of the International Cheer Union (ICU) marked a pivotal milestone, providing a centralized platform for the governance of cheerleading worldwide.

Olympics aspirations 

From spirited sidelines to the grand stage of the Olympics, cheerleading has evolved into a fiercely competitive sport. Garnering provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 2016, it now embarks on a transformative journey toward inclusion in the esteemed lineup of Summer Olympic events, almost having its debut at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Cheerleading also exists among Croatian university students

Cheer goes beyond what you see at gameday on the sidelines. There is so much more than doing cheers and waving pompoms. Beyond the realm of traditional sports, cheerleading serves as a unifying force among diverse communities, transcending cultural boundaries and fostering camaraderie. Notably, Croatian university students embrace the exhilarating spirit of cheerleading, further exemplifying its universal appeal. And it all first started with the students of the University of Split.

If you are from Croatia and you never experienced this type of sport before, we invite you to follow the FISU Cheerleading championships in Split from 2. – 4. August in Split!