Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cheerleader goes from Waterhouse Field to Gillette Stadium 

Posted by Sasha at 1:02 AM ET

By Carl Pepin
Sports writer

BIDDEFORD (Aug 24): It was just like the good old days when she cheered for Biddeford High sports teams in the Tiger Gym. Only this time Carrie Binette was wearing the uniform of a New England Patriot cheerleader as she and two of her teammates wowed the crowd of young cheerleaders from Biddeford Youth Cheering.

Sunday’s trip home was a highly anticipated and long-awaited return by Binette, who is in her first season as a Patriots cheerleader. “I spent four years cheering there and obviously it was awesome to be able to go back,” said Binette. “It was nice. All my family was there, my little cousins, my old cheering coach, my old tumbling coach.”

And Binette’s family definitely played a part in her making the Patriots’ squad in the first place. Her Aunt Kathy told her she should try out for the New England cheering team back when she was an 18-year-old freshman at Endicott College (Beverly, Mass.). After some coaxing and prodding, Binette went to her first tryout back in the spring of 2004. She reached the final stage of the competition before getting dropped in the final round of cuts.

“I made it to the finals with 35 other girls my first year - and 24 make the team - so I figured (after getting so close) I should try again,” Binette recalled. “I tried again the next two years and made it to finals again (but didn’t make the cut). This was my last year and I finally made the team.”

Binette graduated from Endicott in May and it may have been a good thing that she didn’t make the squad those first three times she tried out. With schoolwork as her biggest commitment, the extra responsibilities that come along with being a Patriot cheerleader might not have made for an easy and un-stressed lifestyle.

“It’s good to be older and more mature,” a knowing Binette said about her tryout resume. “I think that you learn a lot of time management throughout college. All the hard work (that went into those three first attempts) really made it more worth it.”

This spring’s initial tryout in March with 300 other hopefuls turned into another tryout with just 67 young women. That second round of auditions trimmed the field to 35 and two more weeks of practices got the team down to its working number of 24 cheerleaders.

On Friday, Aug. 17, those 24 cheered for the first time together at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in an exhibition game. Not only were Binette’s parents - Dave and Karen - in the stands, but other supporters as well. “I don’t even know who the people were, but I saw a sign that said something like ‘We’re from Biddeford – go Carrie Binette’,” she said. “I thought that’s so neat and I don’t even know the people at all.”

Her career as a Patriots cheerleader actually started within a couple weeks of her officially making the team. Binette was told she needed a passport and that she would be going to the Dominican Republic for the 2008 New England Patriots cheerleader calendar shoot. “We were there for a week and I was the first one to be photographed,” Binette said. “After that I got to relax. I wasn’t nervous anymore.”

The 22-year-old has an extensive background in dance and the majority of the routines the cheerleaders perform on the sidelines are all dance routines. But Binette knows that it takes more than a dance or cheering background to be selected for the New England team.

“Some of the girls on our team had never danced and some had never cheered,” said Binette. “We have personal interviews at tryouts and we have to meet with the director. Even if you were the best dancer in the world, if you didn’t have a good personality you wouldn’t be chosen.”

Binette has a degree in visual communications and she’s looking for a full-time position somewhere in the Boston area. The Patriots do pay their cheerleaders, but the salary isn’t one that could provide an annual income to support normal annual expenses. So for the time being, she’s been freelancing in the graphic design field while attending to her new duties as Patriots cheerleader.

“We practice twice a week – all day on Saturdays,” she said about her typical week with the team.

And one thing that’s certainly different from high school cheering is the rule that there is no fraternization between the players and the cheerleaders. “They’re there to win football games and we’re there to support them,” Binette said about the professional football players she shares the sidelines with. “They’re doing their job and we’re doing ours.”

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