Do you love cheerleading? Do you love the look of metallic pom poms? You are not alone. Cheerleading is a very popular activity in the United States. There are nearly four million cheerleaders around the country. About 400,000 of them are still in high school.
When most people think of cheerleading today, we think of girls and women. This is interesting only because when it started, it was an all male activity. The first cheerleaders were three male Princeton students. They performed at their first football game on October 26, 1897.
Women were not allowed to be in official cheerleading squads until 1923. That is when the University of Minnesota began letting women cheer. It was not until the late 1920s that women really embraced cheerleading.
Another thing that most people associate with cheerleading is the pom pom. Cheerleading pom poms come in a variety of styles from flashy metallic pom poms to plastic pom poms. This may be what is considered normal for today’s cheerleader pom poms but that was also not always the case.
While cheerleading started back in the 1890s, it was not until the 1930s that pom poms were invented. Back then, there were no metallic pom poms but Jim Hazelwood designed them and made them from materials such as tissue paper or crepe. He wanted cheerleaders to use these to up the showmanship of the cheerleaders’ performances.
There were some problems with Hazlewood’s new invention. Paper pom poms did not hold up well. Paper pom poms look great when they first come out of the box but they are flimsy and fairly delicate. They tend to fall to pieces when they are used for any length of time. Worse, football games are played outdoors and these pom poms do not hold up to the elements the way that plastic or metallic pom poms can. As great as these early pom poms were, something needed to be done to make them better able to deal with all of the weather conditions that the cheerleaders need to deal with.
One advancement in pom pom technology was made by Lawrence Herkimer. He did not change the material but he did add a different kind of handle. He was a big proponent of using bright colors to look better on the field and on color television.
The pom pom design was advanced once again in 1965. That year, Fred Gastoff began making pom poms using materials such as plastic and vinyl. These pom poms were more able to hold up to vigorous use and to be able to withstand the harsh weather conditions that often are found on the football field. Gastoff’s design got a big boost when it was endorsed and supported by the International Cheerleading Foundation. They were vocal supporters of the new style of pom pom. This is when the pom poms really started to become well known and were linked to cheerleading.
In the years that followed the development of the plastic and vinyl pom poms, companies began to play around with color and the shape of the pom poms themselves. If you compare new pom poms to early versions of the cheerleading equipment, you will notice how traditional pom poms are puffier and rounder. Fans are often given what are called “rooter” pom poms. These have longer handles and longer streamers to let fans wave them to support their team. Pom poms today can have one ot two or more colors. Others are designed with a specific pattern.
It is impossible to sit back and enjoy cheerleading performances without enjoying the contributions made by Jim Hazlewood, Lawrence Herkimer, and Fred Gastoff. They really changed the way cheerleading has advanced throughout the years. Today, you can get all sorts of pom poms styles. You can opt for metallic pom poms or custom pom poms to support a team, a political candidate or an idea.
The history of cheerleading and pom poms is a long one. For the vast majority of girls who get involved in cheerleading, it is a very positive experience helping them with their self esteem. Research shows that girls who are involved in sports like this are much less likely to try drugs. Whatever the reason you do it, it is a great activity.