Tuesday, October 09, 2007
By Aileen McElroy
Cape Coral Daily Breeze
Cape Coral Daily Breeze
Former Fort Myers Beach resident Missy Barrickman can now be found along the Dolphin Stadium sidelines cheering for the aqua and orange as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Her love of football traces north to her hometown, Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Football has always been a strong presence in my life. I came out of the womb in black and gold as a Steelers fan,” said Barrickman.
While growing up in the Steel City, she said she particularly revered running back Jerome Bettis, also known as “The Bus.”
“Through high school I was a fan of Jerome Bettis. He was a stand-up player and did a lot for the community,” said Barrickman.
After high school, Barrickman moved to the Sunshine State and pursued a pre-med major at Florida State University and served as batgirl for the Seminoles’ baseball team. With a diploma in hand, she landed on Fort Myers Beach, near Junkanoo, shortly after Hurricane Charlie and worked in medical sales for a year on the Gulf Coast.
“Living on the beach was great,” said Barrickman. “The people are a tight knit group and always so nice. It was a lot of fun and you could walk to everything, the gym and the grocery story. You didn’t have to leave the beach.”
In April 2006, Barrickman decided to audition for a spot on the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. Surrounded by “beautiful and glamorous” women, Barrickman admitted she was overwhelmed but kept her poise and managed to clear the first round of cuts after succeeding in performing a freestyle dance for one minute. Barrickman also passed the second round cuts by tackling a grueling kickline.
“It’s hard to get 40 girls in one line kicking high up to the face on the beat,” said Barrickman. “It’s a signature routine of the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders done during halftime or pre-game and it’s got to be perfect.”
In round three, Barrickman joined veteran cheerleaders for a week-long camp. She and 100 other hopefuls learned choreographed routines and performed a show in public at a Fort Lauderdale mall at the week’s end.
In 2006 and 2007, Barrickman hurdled the auditions becoming one of about 50 draft picks.
“The first year, I was shocked. I never expected it. You prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” said Barrickman. “The second year is even harder because you know how important it is to you, you know how much fun it is and you know what you’re missing if you don’t get in.”
During football season, the team practices three days a week in Davie. An hour before a three-hour practice, Barrickman dons tall boots and a two-piece uniform and preps her hair and makeup. Then it is out to the field to practice kicklines and dance routines for the home games. During games, Barrickman said the team has to be ready to bust a move as soon as the captain calls for it whether it is a country or hip-hop routine.
“My favorite dance routine is called ‘Get Free.’ It’s a one-minute routine at the end zone. It’s high energy, sharp — a fun sexy dance,” she said.
Barrickman is also a fan of the Miami Dolphins’ fans and feels honored to perform in front of a huge crowd totaling 75,000.
“The fans that we have are so loyal and have loved the Dolphins for years,” she said. “At 8 a.m. they’re tailgating — that says a lot. The fans have been awesome — without them we couldn’t do what we do.”
Come Oct. 28, she is looking forward to cheering abroad.
“I’m looking forward to London,” said Barrickman. “We’re playing there at home against the Giants. I’ve been told Dolphins are a fan favorite of London, that they love the Dolphins over there.”
This year’s team is comprised of about 50 women from the ages of 18 to 31. Barrickman points out that there is no snippiness or cliques on the team.
“The girls are amazing,” she said. “We’re all at different stages of our life and everyone is supportive. If someone is having a bad day, everyone is concerned.”
During the season, Barrickman said her co-workers become her family.
“We see each other more than our families and boyfriends,” said Barrickman. “We end up being friends as well as co-workers. On weekends, there’s always someone who is free to go shopping or take in a movie with.”
Off-season the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders stay active performing internationally. In the past year, they have taken their choreographed steps to Mexico, the Bahamas and military bases.
The cheerleaders have also made appearances in nursing facilities and local hospitals, including the cancer ward at HealthPark in Fort Myers.
“I love doing hospital visits,” she said. “Those are my favorite appearances. It’s absolutely awesome to put a smile on somebody’s face. Kids look up at you like you’re a life-size Barbie doll. It’s a great feeling to get to make a child or adult smile. It’s an exciting feeling that’s irreplaceable.”
Barrickman defined her idea of a successful 2007-08 season.
“Success will happen no matter what, if I perform at all 10 home games, stay healthy and be able to cheer ... the more we win, that would be great too,” she said, laughing.