The History Of Cheerleading: It Was All-Male Until The 20th Century

By | August 21, 2019

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Yale male cheerleaders performing a routine, circa 1925. Source: (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

Today, cheerleading is very much a female-dominated sport. Although male cheerleaders are not uncommon at the competitive and collegiate level, boys who express an interest in cheering in high school are looked upon as an oddity, to put it politely. Maybe that attitude would change if more people knew that the first cheerleaders were men. In fact, cheerleading was an all-male endeavor until the 1920s. Here is a brief history of the macho world of early cheerleading. 

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Fans cheering on their football team. Source: (

An Offshoot of Football

Football and cheerleading went hand-in-hand in the 19th century as much as it does today, if maybe not so literally. In the mid-1800s, the sport of American football was still in the developmental stages, having split from its rugby roots. For such a new sport, however, it already had plenty of fans, particularly on college campuses. The first college football game was played on November 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Students from both schools came to the event to root for their team. The fan base of rowdy, cheering students became a staple of football games.