In the 1860s, students from Great Britain began to cheer and chant in unions for their favorite athletes at sporting events. Soon, that gesture of support crossed overseas to America. Princeton graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota to transplant the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota. The term "Cheer Leader" had been used as early as 1897, with Princeton's football officials having named three students as Cheerleaders. In 1898 organized cheerleading was born. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a "yell leader" squad, and in 1903, the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded. Organized cheerleading started as an all-male activity.
In 1923, at the University of Minnesota, women were permitted to participate in cheerleading. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s when collegiate men were drafted for World War II. In 1948, Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer, of Dallas, Texas, a former cheerleader, formed the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) in order to hold clinics for cheerleading. In the 1950s, the formation of professional cheerleading started. The first recorded cheer squad in NFL history was for the Baltimore Colts. Professional cheerleading eventually spread to soccer, basketball and baseball teams as well. During the 1950s, cheerleading increased in popularity, by the 1960s, cheerleading could be found in every school in the country.
In 1968 organized cheer competitions such as, "The Top Ten College Cheerleading Squads", and "Cheerleader All America" became something intercollegiate squads aspired to. Modern cheerleading as we know it today began in the 1980s with flashy dance routines and gymnastics stunts. The International Federation of Cheerleading (IFC) was established in 1998. By 1999 cheerleading was recognized as an independent sport. The IFC has organised Cheerleading World Championships since 2001. International Cheer Union (ICU) established in 2004. The ICU holds the World Cheerleading Championships, too. In 2016 ICU was provisionally recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).