While cheerleading remains a female dominated sport in the middle school and even high school years, the fact is that male cheerleaders make up approximately 50% of cheerleaders at the collegiate level. Just like everyone on a squad, male cheerleaders are committed to training and making the routines perfect for competitions and performances.
It All Started With Male Cheerleaders
The year was 1898. Johnny Campbell was a fan of the Minnesota Gophers, and his team needed some encouragement. Down on the sidelines, he turned to the crowd and began to lead the first ever cheer, and thus cheerleading was born.
Not only was cheerleading started by male cheerleaders, traditions were also perpetuated by men like Lawrence Herkimer and Fred Gastoff. Lawrence Herkimer founded the National Cheerleaders Association and invented the herkie jump, along with contributing many other "firsts" to the sport of cheerleading. Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pom pon.
Skills for the Men on a Squad
Like all cheerleaders, the men on a squad need to practice for routines, but their stunts in college are different than those of the women. There is less focus on flexibility and splits and usually much more tumbling in the form of flips, pikes and handstands. This requires a great deal of core strength as well as very strong legs.
Also, the men on a squad often fill the position of bases as well as spotters. There is even a saying that many of them chant with pride: "Any man can hold a cheerleader's hand, but only the elite can hold her feet!". Some cheerleaders coming from all-girl squads in high school find that the larger hands and stronger arms of college male cheerleaders make them feel more secure. Morgan Earley, a cheerleader for the University of Utah, spent a year in high school recovering after a drop. However, when she got to college she reportedly noted that she had never been dropped by a guy.
Earley also said in an article from the Daily Utah Chronicle that having men in the squad helps to "mediate" some of the tempers and strong wills that can cause problems in an all female squad. Contrary to popular belief, even though the men do have their hands holding up the cheerleaders like a chair, there is no sexual tension or awkwardness. Male cheerleaders learn to respect their female counterparts, who learn to trust the men, and all work together to make their routines better and better.
Traditions New and Old
There are some traditions that come along with the presence of male cheerleaders on your squad - for example, the University of Utah and Brigham Young University cheerleading squads have a "Cuple" contest where each squad compete to see who can hold a cheerleader up with one arm for the longest time. Aside from a show of strength and trust, they also work other moves into the simple stunt, turning it into a routine.
Many famous men have been cheerleaders - Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, and George W. Bush, actors like Steve Martin and even super-tough-guy Samuel L. Jackson. Still, even though more and more high schools are beginning to see more male cheerleaders, they still don't get the respect they deserve. Thankfully their squad mates can always let them know that they are a valued part of the school spirit.