True Story: I’m a Professional Cheerleader

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things.  This is the story of Caity and her work as a cheerleaders for Washington Capitals.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 

My name is Caity, I’m from the Northern Virginia/DC area. I went to Penn State University but moved back to the Washington, D.C. area after I graduated in 2011. I work at a nonprofit organization as a Communications Assistant. Additionally I am in my first semester as a graduate student working towards my Master’s of Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University.
For fun, I attend a lot of concerts as well as college and professional sports games, I try to read at least one book a month, and I spend a lot of time working out to take my mind off of things and give me some alone time. I’ve also recently started volunteering as a morning runner with the Back on My Feet nonprofit organization. This is my first year as a Red Rocker for the Washington Capitals.
What are the biggest misconceptions about cheerleaders?
I think the biggest misconception about this profession is that it’s our only job. Our team requires that you either have a full time job or are a student in addition to being on the team. While it is a big time commitment to be a Red Rocker, it’s also, as you can see, only one of the many aspects of my life. All of my teammates also juggle other jobs and college classes as well.
What made you want to be a professional cheerleader?
I grew up dancing since the age of 3. I was on my middle school’s dance team, attended a performing arts high school, and majored in dance in college. After graduation I knew I wanted to continue to dance in some way, but wasn’t sure how I would be able to make it fit in my busy schedule. I am also an avid sports fan, specifically hockey, so trying out for the Red Rockers was the perfect fit. I love being able to serve as an ambassador for the Washington Capitals, which is the team I’ve cheered for all my life. It’s an honor and it’s also a fun opportunity to continue doing something I’m passionate about.
Can you tell us about the audition process?
Our audition process took two days. On the first day we were split into teams and did various team building/relay competitions, we learned a dance and choreographed a few eight counts with our teams, and we replicated a t-shirt toss in the stands. On the second day we had a formal interview, learned a few more eight counts, and performed the dance again in front of the judges. My favorite part of the audition was working together with the other girls and having the opportunity to learn about the experience from the girls who had been on the team before.
How often do you practice? 
We typically have one formal practice per month, but we get together to review dances in smaller groups if we have a performance event to prepare for.
Tell us about an average game day.
An average game day for me involves waking up around 5:30am to get ready for the day. It typically takes me about an hour to curl my hair and do my makeup. Then I go to my full time job for 8 hours. After that I have some time to go home, change, and touch up my hair and makeup. We arrive at the rink two hours before doors open so we can go over our game schedules and sideline dances. The doors usually open an hour before the puck drops, at which point we go up to greet the fans and do pregame preparations such as shooting a quick promotional video for the team store or dancing in the aisles during the team intros. During the games we are scheduled for various tasks such as Chipotle burrito tosses, t-shirt tosses, and Papa John’s pizza giveaways. We also have a Red Rocker table on the concourse with smaller giveaways where we sign autographs and take photos. At the end of the game if the Caps win we go out on the ice for a victory t-shirt toss!
How do you prepare appearance-wise for a game day?
I make sure I have a clean French manicure on my nails. I curl my hair and apply game day makeup which includes fake eyelashes. I also have to be sure I have all of the pieces of my uniform including my poms and our team issued earrings.
Do you have other obligations in addition to cheering?
In addition to being at the games and practices, the Red Rockers are also present in the community at various events. We work everything from happy hours with our fans to community service events for local organizations such as the Capital Area Food Bank, Children’s National Hospital, Wounded Warriors, and KaBOOM! to name a few. My favorite events so far this year were performing at Taste of DC, a culinary and cultural event in downtown Washington, D.C., and performing for the kids at Children’s National Medical Center. Being able to interact with the people at our events is an honor, especially when kids are involved. I love taking pictures with the kids, teaching them some of our dances, and putting a smile on their faces!
How do your friends and family feel about your cheering?
My friends and family are extremely supportive of my cheering. They’re all eager to attend the games and events that I’m scheduled to work, and they’ve taken an interest to how the Caps are doing because they know it’s important to me. I’m lucky that I have a flexible work environment at AFA and a strong support system from family, friends, and coworkers. Without those two key ingredients my participation with the Red Rockers would not be possible. Everyone in my life is understanding and excited for me, which I am thankful for because it allows me to enjoy my time as a Red Rocker instead of being stressed about balancing so many responsibilities.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to do something similar?
My advice if you are thinking of doing something similar to being a Red Rocker is to go for it! Have fun preparing for auditions, take dance classes that you enjoy, and remember that most teams do have the volunteer/appearance aspect in addition to the in-game performances. One aspect that the Red Rockers were looking for at auditions was a history of volunteering in the community. Serving as an ambassador of a professional sports teams means you are going to interact with a very diverse crowd, so you have to be comfortable in that setting. It’s also important to have fun at the audition. Don’t let your nerves get to you and ruin your disposition. The team wants to pick girls that are fun, energetic, and outgoing, so be sure to balance the seriousness of the audition with showing off your personality simultaneously.
Thanks so much for sharing, Caity!  Do any of you guys have experience cheering?

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  1. Alicia | Jaybird: Home in Motion

    Wow! I can't believe Caity manages a full time job, graduate school, a time commitment like cheering, and volunteering on top of everything. That's an awesome level of dedication. It's so interesting to have this new insight into part of my hometown hockey team!

  2. Samatha

    May I ask why they require you to have a job or go to college and cheer at the same time? I've heard that cheerleaders have tons of other commitments, but it is amazing that people can juggle a schedule like that.

  3. Amanda

    this is FASCINATING. Caity certainly has her hands full, but she manages her life with enviable aplomb. Very, very cool.
    -Amanda |

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