Behind the Pom-Poms: A look into the life of a professional cheerleader

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Professional cheerleaders are trained cheerleaders and dancers who support professional sports teams. They can often be found on the sidelines of an NFL or NBA game cheering their teams onto victory. Many people assume that the life of a professional cheerleader is synonymous with glamour. However, the daily life of a pro cheerleader is often very hectic, complicated, and at times completely devoid of glamour. Dance ability and physical fitness are only two of the abilities that cheerleaders must possess. Professional cheerleading requires women to be well-rounded and to be able to handle themselves in various situations. Many fans judge cheerleaders based on the way they are portrayed on the field or court. However, only a small percentage of these people know what really goes on behind the scenes. Most people would be shocked to discover all of the hard work and preparation that cheerleaders are required to go through in order to perform.

Usually, this unwavering level of dedication starts during the audition process. Professional cheerleading auditions usually span 2-3 days with most teams requiring women to go through multiple rounds including interviews and a solo performance. Majority of teams then require their members to go through a post-audition boot camp that could last anywhere from 3-8 weeks. However, the hard work does not stop after boot camp. Successful candidates that complete boot camp and secure a spot on the team will have to endure multiple rehearsals each week throughout the season. At times, a team may learn a brand new routine at each and every rehearsal. In addition to rehearsals, pro cheerleaders are expected to keep up a healthy fitness regimen.

Personally, I tried to exercise on my own at least two-three times a week while a member of my team. Professional cheerleaders are also ambassadors for their teams and beacons of light in their communities. They are required to make various appearances within their communities in addition to attending all of the homes games of their respective team. These appearances may range from autograph signings to performing at a children’s hospital. In addition, cheerleaders are required to keep up with beauty procedures such as getting their hair dyed, cut, and styled in a timely manner. A typical day in the life of a cheerleader may include attending a team charity event in the morning, working out with a group of teammates in the afternoon, and finishing up with a lengthy rehearsal in the evening all while keeping up with their outside responsibilities such as school, work, and family.

Another rarely discussed part of professional cheerleading is the fact that most cheerleaders are significantly well-rounded individuals. Many cheerleaders I have come across within the various leagues are professionals in the fields of health, education, law, and business. Personally, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree (majored in biology) prior to becoming a professional cheerleader and am now pursuing my Masters of Public Health with the hopes of impacting the world on a global scale. There are even a couple of professional cheerleaders that work for NASA! Some teams even require women to be a full-time student or hold a part-time or full-time job before attending auditions. Pro cheerleaders have to be able to handle the vast responsibilities of being on a team while keeping up with their personal, work, and family life.


Recently, the unpleasant side of professional cheerleading has been discussed in the media. A few cheerleading teams have even filed lawsuits against their prospective NFL teams. These women have cited low wages, exploitation, and a lack of benefits as reasons for being unhappy with their job. There are definitely times when professional cheerleaders may be placed in unhappy situations. Fans can get attached to their favorite cheerleaders and have a hard time remembering that there is an actual person behind the uniform and pom-poms. The atmosphere of the job varies with each team. Personally, I have had an exceptional experience with my teammates and management. I felt as though I was always treated with respect and that management always considered my well-being above all else. However, the same may not be able to be said for all professional cheerleading teams across the country.

In addition, compensation including wages varies according to team. In my opinion, professional cheerleaders across the nation should definitely be compensated more significantly. The NFL and NBA are multi-million dollar businesses and cheerleaders are an integral part of the game-day atmosphere. Our work is difficult and time-consuming. On the other hand, professional cheerleading should never be seen as a full-time job. Many cheerleaders refer to our experience as a “part-time job, full-time commitment” and in many instances that is the real essence of pro cheer.

When I auditioned for my team in 2013, I could not have imagined all of the ways my involvement would impact my life. Professional cheerleading gave me the opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of fans, give back to my community, and further my love of cheerleading. My coaches, teammates, and experiences have allowed me to grow professionally, mentally, and physically and in turn it has made me into a better athlete, individual, and friend.

Professional cheerleading is by no means an easy job. It takes dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to grow. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone. You have to learn how to work with teammates for the greater good of the team and by the end of the season the strangers you met at auditions will become your second family. There are many times that you may leave practice exhausted and feeling dejected. However, the moment that you put on your uniform any doubt disappears. Nothing can match the euphoric feeling you experience while performing your routines in front of throngs of fans. You realize that the pros of the job far outweigh the cons. I will never regret becoming a professional cheerleader and I strongly encourage any women considering auditioning to follow their dreams. The experience and memories will be beyond worth it!





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