Encyclopedia > Cheerleading

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Cheerleading is recreational activity and sometimes competitive sport involving organised routines including elements of dance and gymnastics to encourage crowds to cheer on sports teams. It is most popular in the United States. A cheerleading performer is a cheerleader.

Evolving in (all-male) colleges in the late 19th and early 20th centuries purely as attempts to encourage crowds at their sporting competitions to cheer, the practice spread and became largely a female activity as time progressed. Organised cheerleading contests were formed; most high schools around the U.S.A. had formed cheerleading squads by the 1950s. Today cheerleading competitions are a ubiquitous feature of American public schools and universities as well as American professional football.

Cheerleading has a rather mixed reputation as a serious athletic endeavour. Cheerleaders are stereotyped in thousands of television shows and movies as vacuous, unintelligent, bitchy, physically attractive, and sexually available (particularly to members of the sporting teams for which they cheer), and the routines regarded as opportunities to expose and highlight their attractive bodies.

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