The Sport of Cheerleading and Its Evolution

Before cheerleaders became an integral part of professional sports as a way to help fans cheer on their teams, it started at the college level. For decades, it has developed not only as a competitive sport in itself, but has served as a messenger to bring attention to charity goals and offer support in a variety of ways.

Cheerleaders are from the University of Minnesota. The first cheerleader was a University of Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell. During the soccer match he moved the crowd cheering, “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-so-Tah!” The date is November 2, 1898. The university then gathered an army of six male students who continued to use Campbell’s original cheerfulness. Although the cheerleaders were originally men who were all men, in 1923 women were included and eventually became the majority of participants. Cheerleading immediately starts including routines such as falls, gymnastics, and the use of megaphones during soccer matches.

In 1948, a former cheerleader at the Southern Methodist University named Lawrence Herkimer formed the National Cheerleaders Association. It was made to hold cheerleading clinics, and in the 1960s, campus cheerleaders held workshops throughout the country teaching the fundamentals of cheering for teenage girls in high school. In 1965, Fred Gastoff, created vinyl pom-pounds introduced in a competition organized by the International Cheerleading Foundation. Currently known as the World Cheerleading Association. Organized cheerleading competitions developed everywhere until 1978 when CBS broadcast the first Collegiate Cheerleading Championship, which brought more attention to sports. Although cheerleaders rarely received much attention during the 1960s, and cheerleaders were no reason to watch football, what began to emerge was a team of professionally organized cheerleaders.

Before they became the famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the Dallas Cowboys had a support force consisting of male and female high school students named CowBelles & Beaux. During the 1970 football season, Cowboys manager, Tex Schramm, decided to completely overhaul cheerleaders, making them troops who were all women over the age of 18, redesigning uniforms, creating a routine of cheering new dance styles, and forming an appearance that sexier overall in hopes of increasing attendance. The women not only have to be attractive and have athletic abilities when they audition, they also have to have raw talent as players. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders made their first appearance on the sidelines during the 1972-1973 NFL season. Since then, they have appeared on many television shows, toured throughout the US and abroad, and have made regular appearances on USO tours to support our troops.

Modern cheerleaders have changed dramatically from their original functions to encourage attendees to show their support to the team. It has become a sport in itself, competing outside sporting events too. Cheerleaders are found in most American secondary schools, high schools, and colleges with organized teams consisting of students. Cheerleading scholarships are even offered by universities that compete in cheerleading competitions.

Cheerleading forces began to appear in the 1980s that had no connection with schools or sports leagues. Their main goal is just competition. Divisions and teams are created and sponsored by many different organizations and companies. Competition is judged based on the difficulties and implementation of routines that include leaps, stunts, falls, creativity, performance play, synchronization, and overall routine performance. This all-star team competition is broadcast to a global audience that has caused thousands of cheerleading participants from countries around the world.

Professional cheerleaders have brought cheerleaders outside the cheering scope of the game. This has broadened their horizons to do charity and philanthropic work, television shows, advertising, modeling, and motivational speaking. Cheerleaders have come a long way.

Understanding Team Dynamics in Sport

Using the Athlete DISC to Create High Performance Teams

Great teamwork happens when those on the team have a philosophy of being the best person for the team rather than the best person in the team. Often athletes compete brutally against each other in order to be selected on the team and then once they are on the team, they are expected to put the team first. This is quite a departure from their previous thinking when they had to fight for themselves. However, if their thinking does not change, then we end up with a non-united team. A team of individuals. A team that without question, will fail to produce their best when it matters the most. As coaches, we may or may not have a role in selecting our team. Some do and some don’t. Regardless of this, every coach, must understand the interplay of behavioural styles / personalities that exist of their team. This interplay is called Team Dynamics and just by observing a team, it can be quite a challenge to accurately understand the diverse mix of these styles. To fully and accurately understand, coaches can turn to the Athlete DISC and the Team Dynamics Profiling. After all, most teams fail due to clashes of behaviour patterns (“personality clashes”). Clashes that could have been managed had the coach and team been aware of them.

Creating Great Teams

Some coaches assume any group can automatically be a team. One of the biggest single reasons that teams misfire is that personality differences are ignored. In short, who’s selected for the team will affect the outcome. For best results, we must be strategic about the athletes on the team, what their behavioural style is and what the outcome of these behavioural styles is in creating the Team Dynamics Profile. With this knowledge coaches can begin to understand likely team behaviours and the most effective way to coach the overall team. Coaches can also see where gaps are in the team’s diversity and can, where able, recruit athletes of particular profiles to fill those gaps.

When coaches create a sporting team and employ their knowledge of the four Athlete DISC behavioral styles, they can greatly improve the team’s chances for success. Coaches will need to take into account that there are natural allies and antagonists among the styles and also that each style functions best at a different phase in the life cycle of a team. For information on Team Development Stages, stay tuned as an article is coming out soon on this topic.

For example, Interactive styles (I’s) often see Compliant styles (C’s) as overly-analytical and rule governed. Dominant styles (D’s) might sooner die than have to continually wait on the more considerate style of the Steady team members (S’s). Compliant styles, while often drawn to Steady styles, have difficulty understanding the Interactive style’s lack of focus or the Dominant style’s impatience. And Steady styles only wish everyone was as amiable and tolerant as they. So while the potential for conflict is always there, it needn’t become the reality. In creating a team, think about who you are putting on it and monitor how they function during the group’s evolution. That way you’ll not only make the best possible use of the strengths of each team member, you can help create a whole that’s much larger than the sum of the parts. Discovering what styles you have on your team is easy. When each of your team, complete an Athlete DISC Profile, they will be mapped onto a Team Dynamics Chart like the one below.

Visit our site to see the article on this topic and view the Dynamics Profile Chart.

In the Team Dynamics Profile example, a coach can see that there are two different percentage measures in each Behavioural Style. The first percentage is the Norm Group. The norm group is a measure of the % of team members that theoretically form a healthy amount of a certain behavioural style. The other percentage is Your Group. This is the actual percentage of a certain behavioural style that exists in your team.

The first aspect to look at in the Team Dynamics Profile, is the Norm Group vs Your Group percentage. We ideally want these percentages to map to the theory percentages. Successful teams tend to have healthy diversity within the behavioural profiles. Can you think of what may occur if one behavioural style is oversupplied?

In the above example, the first team issue to notice is the lack of D’s. In teams, D’s provide a sense of urgency, a pace setting style of leadership, a love of a challenge, a strong results focus and a what ever it takes style of play. What do you think may be the outcome for a team that is missing these qualities? Think about team members who naturally want to assume a leadership role, what profile do you think they are most likely?

The second observation is that there are too many I’s. Interactive (I) style behaviours are fast paced, people oriented, motivated by change and fun, are impulsive with their choices, will be interested in the social side of sport as well as the need for individual recognition. As well, I’s are talkative types who tend to wear there heart on their sleeve more so than the other styles. With roughly twice as many I’s as the theory suggests is required, this team will likely struggle at times to switch on a focus. There may be a lot of off topic communication and if their coach does not provide excitement and fun elements at training, then they will start to disengage.

The other factor in this team, is that their Steady style (S) is under represented. S styles are described as the ultimate team player. They listen, are observant of others, portray tolerance, are highly amiable and generally will naturally put the team before themselves. Some describe S’s as the glue that binds the team together. What do you think may happen in this team given that there are not enough of the S’s?

Finally, the Compliant style. You will notice that this style is also over represented by 25%. Compliant styles (C’s) are rule guided, motivated by structure and systems being effective and efficient, are stubborn and inflexible to change unless there is sufficient evidence such as facts and figures to support the change. They are also likely to be highly conscious of quality above all else, are interested in the “right” process before the result and are more a thinker than a feeler who will be reticent to express themselves. Whilst fantastic people to have on a team, they can often be prone to preferring to work alone. So knowing this what impact do you think the impact on the team will be?

In summary, Team Dynamics Profiling gives us concrete indications on how the team will bond, interact and ultimately perform. Obtaining accurate information on Team Dynamics is easy and inexpensive using the Athlete DISC Profiling system. I have noticed that when teams significantly underperform, there is almost always critical behavioural issues (“personality clashes”) that were never addressed by the coach. Sport is tough enough. Coaching is one of the most challenging roles a person can have. In a recent survey of elite coaches from a diversity of sports, coaches rated the three most challenging aspects of their roles. 50% rated “Understanding individual athlete’s personality and how to best motivate them”. 46% rated “Personal life balance – managing sport, career, home and social life.” And 31% rated “Team/squad dynamics and managing relationships within the team/squad”. Don’t make your job any harder by neglecting this critical aspect of team performance. Use the knowledge available with Athlete Assessments and the Athlete DISC to assist you to make better informed decisions.