The origins of cheerleading can be attributed to students in Great Britain who began to cheer and chant for their favourite sports teams during the 1860s. This expression of support soon made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to America. The first evidence of chanting from fans occurred in November 1869 during an intercollegiate football match between Princeton University and Rutgers University. It was Princeton University who first started organized cheerleading from the stands as early as 1877, that was known as the ‘Princeton Cheer’. It remains in use today with a few modifications. When Thomas Peebles moved from Princeton to Minnesota in 1884, he took with him the idea of organized crowds cheering on their football team at the University of Minnesota. The term ‘Cheer Leading’ was used as early as 1897. In November 1898, the first official organized cheerleading group was formed made up of six male students. It took a further 25 years before women were given permission to take part in cheerleading, but the idea took a long time to be adopted by other universities and colleges. During the 1940s, collegiate men were drafted for the Second World War, paving the way for women to fill the void left behind at the sport event sidelines. Female participation at sporting events soon grew to school level, further enhancing the popularity and it was estimated by 1975, over 500,000 students were actively involved from school to collegiate level.
Cheerleading took a major step forward in the 1950s through the help of the National Football League (NFL). The first recorded cheer squad was established by the Baltimore Colts and by 1981 seventeen NFL teams had their own cheerleaders. During the first thirty years of the professional era, the main ingredient for cheerleading was the visual effect for spectators. From the 1980s a further technical aspect was added that gave cheerleading more the characteristic of a sport. Difficult stunt sequences and gymnastics were brought into routines bringing about the formation of all-star teams. The International Cheer Union (ICU) was founded in 2004 and is the highest authority and worldwide governing body for the sport of cheerleading. ICU is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). ICU is also a member of the Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF). Many sports are now using cheerleading as part of major international competitions. For example, South Africa was the first nation to add cheerleaders to the Cricket World Cup held in 2007. The formation of ICU has brought direction to the sport and the objective of the organization is to maintain the integrity from a professional to school level as it continues to develop the sport globally. ICU currently has over 100 member federations and is based in Memphis, Tennessee.