Getting a space on the NFL Pro Bowl Cheerleaders Squad is the crowning achievement for any National Football League Cheerleader. Out of hundreds of talented women, only one from each team is chosen. The resulting team is divided into two squads, one for the American Football Conference and one for the National Football Conference. Each squad is then expected to cheer for their team at the Pro Bowl.
That may sound simple, but the reality is hour upon hour of rehearsing, tight deadlines, grueling photo shoots, public service visits and a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being one of the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders.
Building the NFL Pro Bowl Cheerleaders
Voting for the Best
The Pro Bowl Cheerleading Squad was conceived by the E2K company that produces several sporting events and a variety of sports entertainment. The idea was to have each NFL cheerleading squad vote on who they felt best represented their team. This is not based on looks or even talent; after all, everyone on a professional cheerleading team is expected to have those. Instead, the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders represent women with experience and leadership qualities who have earned the respect and admiration of their peers in their squads. This is why it is such an honor to be chosen. One of the biggest challenges facing this kind of squad is the fact that until the cheerleaders fly to the location of the Pro Bowl (for example, in 2008 it took place in Oahu, Hawaii) there really aren't any Pro Bowl Cheerleaders. Instead there are twenty-six highly motivated women who love to dance and support their team.
As a result, practices start early, if only days before the actual game. At 8:00 a.m. the women hit breakfast where they usually find some kind of surprise waiting for them like Pro Bowl outfits, sneakers from sponsors or other useful items. This helps blunt the eleven hours of rehearsal, learning as many as thirteen different routines from scratch. In 2008, cheerleaders often rehearsed in temperatures of 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the cheerleaders are divided into two different squads, they evaluate each other's skills and vote one cheerleader to be the line captain for that squad. This is part of the process that binds them together into a performing unit, and they will develop their own sideline cheers and filler for the upcoming game. The individual squads are also expected to perform as a complete group during the opening and halftime shows. This means learning another couple of dances in a short period of time.
Of course each cheerleader is fiercely loyal to their own team, but at the same time, this is an opportunity to learn new cheerleading skills, stunts, and moves used by competing teams. The 2008 cheerleader representative of the Seattle Seahawks expressed an appreciation for the extraordinary qualities of her fellow cheerleaders both on and off the field.
While the solidarity of being an elite squad of cheerleaders is important - signified by the practice apparel and the Pro Bowl rings that all of them receive - none of the Pro Bowl cheerleaders forget their roots. In fact, their NFL teams are one of the more significant aspects of their performances at the Pro Bowl. Instead of all wearing one uniform, they wear the uniform of their home team out there on the field. It's a source of pride in themselves and their team, and it's also a celebration of the sport that brings them all together.
More Than Dancers: Ambassadors of Friendship
The duties of the NFL Pro Bowl Cheerleaders go beyond simply dancing well for their teams or in the big shows. In addition to the long hours of rehearsal, they are required to do the usual publicity photos and video segments, talking to news media both national as well as from their home states. Often they will provide cheer clinics to groups of aspiring cheerleaders, teaching them new skills and telling them about their careers as they've danced their way into professional cheerleading.
The cheerleaders may also be asked to attend events related to the Pro Bowl such as the "Skills Challenge," but more traditional are the evening parties that surround the big game. For example, every Pro Bowl has a "Block Party" (which in 2008 took place in Waikiki, in the form of a luau). Certainly these are fun, but there is always that 8:00 a.m. breakfast and hours of rehearsal still waiting the next day. It is not surprising that by the end of the week, the women have bonded into a tight-knit cadre of NFL Pro Bowl cheerleaders. This is ceremoniously recognized by the entire squad going out together to purchase Pro Bowl rings, lifetime memories of the honor of serving with the best of their peers.
During the game itself, it all comes together, although by then they are such close friends that they enjoy watching each other perform as much as they do cheering their teams. Regardless of which conference wins, both squads come away with a unique experience that will enrich their careers and their squads for years to come.