Wednesday, May 16, 2007

From the Sidelines to the Front Office 

Posted by James at 6:30 AM ET

Former Washington Redskins Cheerleader Princess Agra is now a senior executive for the MLB Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Growing up in the DC-suburb of Fort Washington, Maryland, Princess Agra was enamored by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders when they appeared on The Love Boat. To her the cheerleaders were “larger than life.” Instantly, she knew she wanted to do something like that when she got older. She would later realize that dream on the sidelines of RFK Stadium cheering on the Washington Redskins. That experience would in turn help her career as she had the opportunity to write for the team’s publication, and to learn the value of community service and public speaking.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

In middle school Princess received a flyer regarding try-outs for the high school she was about to attend. On the flyer was a cartoon character cheerleader waving pom-poms. She became so excited; she wanted to audition even though she had absolutely no idea what to expect.

She made the squad, cheered throughout high school and captained her senior year. At Penn State she cheered on the commonwealth cheerleading squad her freshman year. After two years in Happy Valley, Princess transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park to be closer to home. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Merchandising with an emphasis in Advertising and Journalism.

She had stopped cheering/dancing when transferring back home. She had no real inclination to do either again because of the time it took away from her studies. But, she met a girl on the college dance team who proclaimed it was her “lifelong dream” to become a Redskins Cheerleader. Princess thought, “They DO have cheerleaders, don’t they?” It sounded like fun and decided on a whim she would audition – much to the dismay of her “traditionalist mother” who worried about the impact on her schoolwork. She studied the squad and realized that a few former high school teammates (that she looked up to) had been members.

In 1992 she auditioned and made it to the Finals. Having absolutely no clue what to expect, she quickly realized there were so many other things she needed to learn to achieve her goal e.g., better dance technique, a better sense of style/look, improved public speaking skills. She chalked that audition year up as the “learning curve” and made the squad the following year. She was a member of the Redskinettes (as the squad was then known) for three years: ’93, ’94, and ’95.

Her mother who originally expressed dismay would come to embrace the status the team held within the community. To this day she proclaims her daughter was a member with extreme dignity!

Her professional cheerleading career continued in 1996 when Princess made the inaugural Philadelphia KiXX Dance Team, but that season was cut short for her when she got her first job in television.

And it would be her work in broadcast television sales that would eventually take her to the Devil Rays. From the beginning of her TV career, she always had a passion for the sales and marketing of sports programming e.g., games, coaches’ shows, championships. Drawn to any project that was sports related, she eventually made a career of it. Princess worked her way up in various markets like DC, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. She has sold nationally such programming as The NFL on Fox, the Super Bowl, the World Series, MLB, NASCAR, the NHL, and the NCAA Bowl Championship Series.

Princess Agra
(from right to left) Princess Agra, Baseball “Hall of Famer” Jim Palmer, Architect Ana Wallrapp, Rays Community Relations Director Suzanne Murchland at the Baseball for Kids fund raiser on behalf of the MLB Alumni Association.

She had also previously worked in Tampa and that experience led her to the Devil Rays. Princess was approached about an opportunity with the Devil Rays after she had decided to go back to the market to care for her sick mother (her parents had retired to the area). She couldn’t see any reason to pass up a chance to work directly for an MLB team – especially one whose goals include positively affecting the surrounding community, valuing family, and promoting the game of baseball. At the tail end of the 2006 MLB season she joined the Devil Rays as Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships.

The department is responsible for the Rays sales and marketing relationships with local, regional, and national corporations. They help grow these relationships and create new ones through the use of various team properties (such as the team’s radio and television networks, signage, publication, and community work). The goal is to activate mutually beneficial marketing campaigns that positively affect the community and the parties involved.

Outsiders might think it’s difficult for a woman to succeed in the traditionally male-dominated arena of professional sports. Princess concedes that not having played professional or college ball, a woman may sometimes lack the instant validity men may receive when working in sports. She considers it a positive challenge that is less frequent now vs. previous years when she first worked in the industry. The women she has met and worked with during this experience are very knowledgeable of both the game and the intricacies of players, coaches, etc.

Even after living in so many different cities she’s still a Redskins fan. But her experience with the Rays has made her appreciate the game of baseball more and she has become a huge fan of the Rays. She does, however, have a slight twinge when Tampa plays her hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles.

Though she lives in Tampa, Princess is still a member of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders Alumni Association. She has participated in two Redskins Alumni Cheerleader performances at FedEx Field since her retirement. Those experiences led her to the following conclusions:

“1) I am definitely still entranced by the excitement of the Redskins fans and game day and 2) I am not in the same shape as I used to be. It definitely hurts a lot more getting on the field vs. my previous days cheering. Regardless, I cherish all those memories fondly.”

Princess Agra

Prior to the Redskins Cheerleaders Alumni performance, 2006 – (from right to left) Alumni Michaele, Kimberly, Princess, Soma, and Vicki.

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