• November 2, 1898, is considered cheerleading’s official start date when the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” group of six male students for football games.

  • By 1923, the University of Minnesota allowed women to participate in cheerleading, but female participation did not start to grow significantly until World War II. Popularity among women continued to grow in the latter half of the 20th century, and by the 1970s it was a female-dominated sport.

  • Cheerleading involves a combination of dance, gymnastics, and overall athleticism and has evolved largely in the 1980s and 1990s to what we see today.

  • Teams are found at the recreational, club, and varsity levels.

  • All-Star teams are focused primarily on competition against other cheer teams rather than cheering for another sports team.

  • Organized cheer may be found in three scenarios:

    • Competition

      • Routines are performed and judged based on difficulty and execution of maneuvers.

      • Events typically last 1–2 days.

      • Generally held on spring floors or gymnasium hardwood floors.

    • Performance

      • Participate in pep rallies or engage in sideline cheering and other events, rather than competition.

      • Occur on wide variety of surfaces (e.g., grass or turf, gymnasium hardwood, or cafeteria and multipurpose room flooring that ranges from linoleum to tile and carpet).

    • Practice

      • Regular practices occur at the high school and college levels, similar to that held for other sports teams.

  • Growth of cheerleading

    • In 1995, there were 30,954 cheerleaders on competition squads registered in the National Federation of High Schools database.

    • By 2017, there were 3.82 million cheerleaders over the age of 6 in the United States and 7.5 million participants worldwide.

Glossary of Terms

  • Base: A person in direct contact with the performing surface and supporting another person’s weight.

  • Basket toss: A stunt where bases interlock their hands and launch a flyer who performs a jump and returns to the cradle.

  • Cradle: A dismount from a partner stunt, pyramid, or toss, in which the catch is completed below shoulder height by a base or bases with a top person in a face-up open-pike position.

  • Dismount: Finishing the stunt by releasing top person down to performing surface or cradle.

  • Dive roll: Forward roll where feet leave the ground before hands reach the ground.

  • Drop: Landing on performance surface from an airborne position.

  • Elevator/sponge toss: Stunt in which top person loads into elevator/sponge-loading position and is tossed into air.

  • Extension: Extended stunt in which flyer has both feet in the hands of a base.

  • Flip: When a person is airborne while his or her feet pass over the head.

  • Flyer/top: A person who is not in contact with the performing surface and is being stabilized by another person or who has been tossed into the air.

  • Helicopter: Stunt in which top person is tossed into air in a horizontal position and rotates parallel to the ground in the same motion as a helicopter blade.

  • Inverted: Refers to a body position where the shoulders are below the waist.

  • Middle: A person who is being supported by a base while also supporting a top person.

  • Post: A person on the performing surface who may assist a top person during a stunt or transition.

  • Prep: A stunt in which one or more bases hold a standing top person at approximately shoulder height.

  • Prep level: When a top person’s base of support is at approximately shoulder height.

  • Pyramid: Skill in which a top person is being supported by a middle and base layer person.

  • Quick toss/partner toss: Toss technique where top person begins toss with at least one foot on the ground.

  • Release stunt: A transition from one stunt to another (including loading positions) in which a top person becomes free from all bases, posts, and spotters.

  • Rewind: Skill in which top person starts with both feet on the ground, is tossed into air, and performs a backward or side rotation into a stunt or loading position. Flips are limited to one rotation, and twists are not permitted.

  • Spotter: A person who is responsible for assisting or catching top person in a partner stunt or pyramid. This person cannot be in a position of providing primary support for top person but must be in a position to protect the top person coming off of a stunt or pyramid.

  • Stunt/partner stunt: One or more persons supporting one or more top persons off of the ground.

  • Toss: Release stunt in which the base(s) begin underneath a top person’s foot/feet and execute a throwing motion from below shoulder level to increase the height of the top person, and the top person becomes free from all bases, spotters, posts, or bracers.

  • Tumbling: Gymnastic skills that begin and end on the performing surface.

Governing Bodies

  • American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA): Founded in 1987 with a focus on promoting safety and safety education in cheerleading. Merged with USA Cheer in March 2018, and now safety rules and recommendations can be found at

  • US All-Star Federation: Founded in 2003 to promote All-Star–style cheer as a competitive sport; governing body for cheer teams and competitions that are not associated with schools.

  • USA Cheer: Founded in 2007 as the governing body for sport cheering in the United States.

  • National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS): Provides rules for high school cheerleading as it does for other sports.

  • International Cheer Union (ICU): Established in April 2004 and recognized as the world governing body of cheerleading, with over 7.5 million athletes in 70 countries.

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