The birth of cheer can be credited to American Johnny Campbell who, at a University of Minnesota sporting event in 1898, jumped on the field and lead the crowd to cheers and chants. New cheer techniques were introduced in the 1920’s and by the 1940’s, women became the majority and remain so today making up over 85% of cheerleading athletes. Training camps were introduced in 1948, new advanced techniques were added in 1974, and a year later the cheer routine was born combining cheer skills with music. The first US National Cheer Championship was held in 1982. By 1988 cheerleading became more international with an education program introduced in Japan and the first International Exhibition in 1995. Cheerleading made a formidable debut in the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. In the 2004 the first World Club Championships were held.  

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.

International Cheer Union

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