Saturday, July 21, 2007

From High School Athlete to NFL Cheerleader 

Posted by James at 6:22 AM ET

By Deanna Wheeler
Lake Sun Leader
As the Kansas City Chiefs take the field in a little less than six weeks, scan the team for a local Camdenton High School graduate. No, not dressed in full football pads and the blazing red and yellow jersey, but on the sidelines as part of the 2007-2008 cheerleading squad.

'I think people are going to be really surprised when they know that I'm on the team,' said Sarah Osborne, known as Sarah Hymes when she was a student at Camdenton.

The 1998 graduate was a tomboy, she said, more involved in scoring points in basketball and volleyball and what the Football Lakers were doing on the gridiron, than cheering for the team

'The last thing I thought in high school is that I would be a cheerleader. I was just way too involved at the other end of the sport,' Osborne said.

As a sophomore at University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo., a friend talked her into trying out for the cheerleading team.

Sarah, Sarah Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader

'I kept telling her it wasn't for me, that I was so used to being cheered on there was no way I could just switch sides like that,' she said. 'She essentially challenged me. I went with her to the tryouts and made the team for the basketball season.'

At her first practices she found out first hand what the other side was like.

It was a challenge, she said of her first year. Not only does each girl have to be athletic but flexible and coordinated as well.

Her first year on the Missouri team ended up being her last, when she was dropped out of a stunt and tore a ligament in her knee.

Cut to a few years later and Osborne has a degree in actuarial science and works for an insurance company in Kansas City. She and her husband have season tickets to the Chiefs, were her love of football continued to play a big role in her life.

'I always tell people it was my upbringing in Camdenton,' she said. 'I just grew up a huge football fan and there is nothing like cheering on the Chiefs. It's great.'

After a while, Osborne started picturing herself on the sidelines.

'I just thought, 'Maybe I could do that.'' she said.

But a few years went by before Osborne worked up the nerve to tryout.

It was part of her New Year's resolution. First, she started taking weekly dance classes to compete against the women who have been dancing most of their lives.

'It's such a grueling process,' she said. 'I have never danced before so knew I wasn't prepared for that. But in March they held clinics every week so you could see what you needed to know for the tryouts, and they are judging everything.'

There were three cuts on the first day of try outs alone. The women left standing made the try out squad.

From there, she went on to boot camp and conditioning, team building, interview practices, and glamour classes, along with general practices to learn the routine for the final try out.

There was also a talent show that included singing.

'That was new this year. I have never sang before, much less in front of people,' she said. 'So it was a completely new experience for me to sing in front of 900 people who attended the talent show.'

The very next day was the semi-finals.

'It's a whole day-thing. The judges are watching every move,' she said. 'You have to act energized all day and have a good attitude, meanwhile you are nervous and trying not to mess up.'

Osborne made it through the semi-finals and through final try outs the next day to become a rookie cheerleader for the 2007-2008 team.

'It's hard to explain,' she said. 'It's such an amazing opportunity. I am so grateful.'

The cheerleaders do more than just cheer and dance, Osborne explained. Community appearances and charity events are regularly scheduled in their week. The team also is responsible for the Junior Chiefs Cheerleader Program, a program for youths of all ages and ability levels that gives them the opportunity to perform at two Chiefs' games.

'Part of the standard is to look glamorous and all-American, but that's such a small part. We are all intelligent women,' she said. 'This isn't anyone's full-time job, we all have full-time jobs outside the Chiefs. We are doing this because we want to and because we want to be better people.'

Osborne already has one performance under her belt at the Chiefs' mini-camp.

'We performed in front of 15,000 people, not as many as a normal home game, but it was still just an amazing experience to run out of the tunnel for the first time wearing the uniform. It's such a rush to do that,' she said.

When it came time for the photographs for the team calendar, the team headed to the lake where Osborne was the unofficial tour guide and was able to show the women around her old stomping grounds.

'When we weren't taking pictures, we got to do fun things and I could show them around. We went out wakeboarding one day and putt-putting another, it was so much fun,' she said. 'The girls got to see me as a Laker-at-heart.'

In November, Osborne takes her seventh actuary exam, leaving her with one more test to take before becoming fully licensed.

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