A Cheerleader's Lot Is Not Always a Happy One

For these Kentucky coeds, there were desperately anxious moments as they urged their team to victory
December 08, 1958

The frenetic young ladies on the opposite and following pages, equally attractive in distress and delight, demonstrate the emotional wear and tear that taut basketball inflicts on partisan fans. As cheerleaders, they are, of course, the most partisan of all—inescapably involved in the split-second changes of fortune their heroes experience on the floor. Each turn of action drives them into abyssal despair or stratospheric rapture, depending on whether a shot is made or missed and on how the referee decides a particular call. And at the end, triumphant or defeated, they are as drained emotionally as the players are physically. The scene here is the magnificent Freedom Hall in Louisville, with the University of Kentucky and Temple playing in the semifinal game of the NCAA championship tournament. Kentucky eventually won the national title, but the game with Temple was the highlight at Louisville—a close, sparkling contest that repeatedly aroused 18,000 spectators to the excruciating pitch portrayed by these Kentucky coeds. The score was tied at intermission and four more times in the second half. With Freedom Hall awash with hysteria, Photographer John Zimmerman captured the cheerleaders in these final breathless moments of the game.

Flailing Fists on floor relieves the tension for Pat Phelps while Pat Nallinger seems transfixed by tense action.

Emotional range is run by girls: (from left) frozen shock (Pat Nallinger), horror (Pat Phelps), apprehension (Susan Bradley), despair (Tracy Walden) and hope (Mary Janet Bond).

Beaming Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp is surrounded by ecstatic-cheerleaders after team went ahead in last 16 seconds and won 61-60.