Monday, July 16, 2007

Debunking NFL Cheerleader Myths 

Posted by Sasha at 5:28 PM ET

Former Falcons Cheerleader Sorts Through the Stereotypes
Friday, 13 Jul 2007
By Lily Fu
MyFox National Editor

Colorful, sparkly uniforms. Tightly choreographed dance moves. Bright, enthusiastic smiles. This is what we all see when we watch NFL cheerleaders in action.

But there's a lot we don't know about their lives off the field and what it really takes to be a cheerleader. And there are still plenty of "stupid cheerleader" and other stereotypes floating out there.

Melanie Snare, an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader from 2001-2005, says that it's much more than just girls standing on the sidelines. From long practices to juggling school and full-time jobs, it's a challenge. But one that she says is rewarding. She helped us at MyFox debunk a few common NFL cheerleader myths.

Myth: Cheerleading is Easy
"A lot of people don't realize how much work goes into it,” Snare says. “It's many hours of rehearsal and practice that involves balancing careers. But it's dancing with friends, lighting up a kid's face at a children's charity. It's the little things that make a difference in being an NFL cheerleader."

Snare says she typically shows up to games four to five hours before kickoff. The team runs through all the routines, has team meetings, and then gets primped and prepped in a cramped, hairspray-clouded locker room of 30 to 40 women. Then it's time for the pre-game appearances, signing autographs with fans outside the dome, and taking photos for promotions. And that's all before the actual game.

Myth: Cheerleading’s the Best Way to Meet Players
Not true, Snare says. "There's a strict policy against fraternization. We interact with them in season at appearances, charity events. But that's really the only time. We have a professional relationship, we don't see them a whole lot. So if girls want to meet players, it's really not the best way to do it."

Myth: Cheerleaders are Dumb
"Stereotypes are hard. Fighting them is definitely a challenge,” she says. “But the vast majority of us have college degrees. We have to go through business interviews at auditions because you do so many public and media appearances."

Myth: Cheerleaders are Catty
You may be imagining scenes from the cheerleading movie "Bring it On" about two squads who get downright nasty during a cheerleading competition. But Snare says her fellow cheerleaders are some of her closest friends. Even after the traditional rookie initiations. The initiations may sound like they have the characteristics of a rowdy sorority spectacle. But Snare says it's nothing like that.

"It's all in fun and it's very harmless. When I was a rookie, I was told we were shooting a swimsuit calendar. I had to be ready at 6:30 a.m., we had practice the night before and we had to be ready, full hair, full makeup. Girls were getting ready at 4 a.m. to get a spot in the calendar. The veterans made us do the most bizarre poses, it was pretty funny."

While Snare treasures her days as a cheerleader, bigger and better things are on the horizon. She's due to give birth to her first child. And even as she embarks on this new journey, she says her cheerleading friends are supporting and rooting for her all the way.

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