Female cheerleaders first began performing at football games in 1923 at the University of Minnesota. At the first football game, in 1869, all-male pep clubs led cheers and songs. A Princeton graduate named Thomas Peebles helped take the cheers to the University of Minnesota.
In the decade following 1923, cheerleaders began adding acrobatics, tumbling and flashcards to their routines. Women flocked to cheerleading in large numbers in the 1940s because many college-aged men went to fight in World War II. In the 1960s, most high schools, grade schools, pee wee and youth leagues had cheerleading teams. The National Cheerleaders Association was founded in 1961.