Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sea Gal Pro Bowl Diary 

Posted by Sasha at 8:54 PM ET

Seahawks.com:Rookie Sea Gal Melanie was chosen to be the Sea Gal's 2008 Pro Bowl Cheerleader in Hawaii. Now back from her journey, Melanie will be giving fans an inside look at her trip in her 2008 Pro Bowl Diary. [photos]

If I could pick one experience thus far that has truly changed my life, this week would be that moment. The learning experiences, people, and memories that were created in one week will stay with me forever. From being a rookie on the Sea Gals this year, to being chosen as this year’s Pro Bowl Cheerleader, I will never forget the impact it has had on my life and I would love to share it with everyone.

Day 1 - Arrival

Arriving in Hawaii on Monday, February 4th, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was ready to work hard and bring a part of the Sea Gals to the Pro Bowl. That's when I met Tony, one our 24-hour security guards. I've never been greeted at the airport like that in my life. He gave me the biggest and friendliest hug, put a beautiful lei around my neck, and said, "Melanie! Welcome to Hawaii!"

From that moment on, I knew this week was going to be unforgettable. Two other women had arrived the same time as me; Kathy from the Arizona Cardinals and Kristin from the San Francisco 49ers. What a warm welcome! These girls were not only beautiful, but so great to start off the week with! And I hadn't even met anyone else yet!

When I walked into my hotel room, there was a Reebok bag with my name on and an itinerary of events throughout the week. I couldn't wait to see who my roommate was going to be, and unfortunately she hadn't arrived yet. But slowly as the girls did arrive, excitement filled the hallways of our hotel floor. We introduced ourselves with hugs and conversations, and we all could not wait to start the week as a new family.

Finally, Linda had arrived! My roommate! She happened to be from the New York Jets. A brand new squad started this year! So we ended up having a lot in common both being Rookies of our teams.

Day 2 - February 5, 2008

When my alarm went off at 5am, both Linda and I had no problems getting out of our beds. We were in paradise doing what we love to do! We hurried down to breakfast eager to meet the directors of e2k Sports, our choreographers, and our top of the line security!

I soon learned that every morning breakfast will be held in the same private dining room. When I walked into that room, the glass doors were open with a full view of the bright blue ocean, breakfast on the table, and Pro Bowl paraphernalia on our chairs.

As Ron, Maria, Diane, and John introduced themselves, I couldn't imagine a better group of individuals to work with. The excitement they had for us, the motivational speeches, and their personalities were above and beyond amazing.

They explained to us that for once, this is our time. It is going to be our time to show why we were chosen as a Pro Bowl Cheerleader to represent our teams. They told us that this week is about having fun and being recognized for all our hard work. I thought to myself, "What a way to start off every morning; Amazing people, an inspirational speech, and a gift of on our chairs? This has got to be too good to be true!"

After breakfast it was on to our first photo shoot as a new team. The photo shoot set up was next door at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel right on the beach with a full view of the dormant volcano, Diamond Head.

It was breathtaking! The set was roped off and fans were eagerly waiting to take our pictures. The shoot took a couple of hours and it started to rain a little while we were out there, but the sun was shining, and the lighting was fabulous!

Soon after, we had about an hour to grab some lunch and get changed into our own teams' practice attire to start our first rehearsal. Talk about exhausting! We were practicing from about 12:30pm to 10pm.

Now, before we even got to Hawaii, each Pro Bowl Cheerleader was sent a DVD with 13 dances on it to learn and know before we arrived. Believe it or not, when Diane (our Pro Bowl choreographer) turned on that music each and every girl knew every dance! It was unbelievable to get that many girls together who have never met, and just start dancing the same routines together.

We were set into NFC and AFC squads by height. I happened to be in NFC squad along with Laura from the Minnesota Vikings, Kathy from the Arizona Cardinals, Tori from the New Orleans Saints, Emily from the St. Louis Rams, and DeAnna from the Carolina Panthers. I can't say it enough; these girls are truly one of a kind!

Thus ends the first work day. Needless to say, we were exhausted and ready for bed.

More to come...I have so much to say!

Day 3 - Wednesday, February 6th

Pancakes, eggs, or waffles today? T-shirts, bags, or sweats on our chairs this morning? They sure do make it easy for us to get out of bed in the morning!

But what I loved about every morning was that we each got a chance to talk and learn about each other. We started this the night before, at the end of practice. We would take turns standing in front of the team and staff and Ron would have us tell each other about ourselves. He would open each of us up and ask us questions about our lives so we could truly get an understanding of how amazing each woman was.

I learned quickly that these women that stand before me were nothing close to ordinary, but had stability, emotions, and lives other than cheerleading. But what was extraordinary about it all, was that we were all sitting in the same room because we possessed a leadership quality in our lives and have a passion for dancing in the organization we were with. Talk about starting the morning off on a good note!

After breakfast we were off to another rehearsal, this time to learn our halftime routine. Ever heard of the band Lifehouse? Because I think my heart may have skipped a beat when I found out we'd be performing with them at halftime.

The song was called "This Time." We took pieces of routines we already knew and put them together to make our halftime routine. It ended up turning out great! It was such a powerful song to dance to.

We got a little break to grab some lunch until our next activity of the day which were hospital visits scheduled for squads NFC1 and AFC1. The other two squads had a few free hours until the Pro Bowl welcome party that was being held later that night.

One of the most rewarding experiences of being an NFL Cheerleader are the smiles you get to see on other peoples' faces when you walk into a room just to say hello. I got to visit the Honolulu Shriners Hospital for children with my squad, NFC1. The very first room we walked into, a little boy named RJ had made us little Valentine's Day cards. He was so shy to give us his cards, it was adorable!

To know that we can put a smile on a child's face and help them take their minds off of their pain and suffering for one second in life is such a rewarding feeling. I can't explain how touching it was to give each child a hug, to sign a poster for them, and to watch their faces light up as we entered the room. Yet again, it was another memory I will have forever.

After the hospital visit, we quickly jumped into our vans and rushed back to our hotel rooms with about 30 minutes to change for the evening event. Like everyday, we had our lovely security men shuttling us from one appearance/performance to another. How they kept up with us I will never know, but they did a fantastic job.

After changing into our evening attire, it was time to attend the NFL Pro Bowl Welcome Party Luau! Now, it's a little hard to keep a low profile when 26 beautiful women enter a place together with security guards in front, side, and behind them. So, we pretty much blew our cover as to who we were when we got to the Luau.

Although we were technically 'off duty' at the time, there was always time to take pictures with our fans! There was great food, entertainment, and anyone and everyone who was involved with the Pro Bowl was there. It was a great event!

Day 4 - Thursday, February 7th

Now by this day, I'm beginning to think to myself just exactly how long I've been here and what day it is. Then I thought who cares? I'm given an itinerary each day of where I'm supposed to be, what I'm supposed to wear, and what I'm supposed to do! Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? More than anyone knows!

Today was going to be exciting. It was our first stadium rehearsal! We all dressed in our new Pro Bowl shorts and t-shirts that were given to us the day before and headed to the vans after breakfast (and after our daily inspirational speech of course).

NFC GroupAs we arrived, it was straight to the field to practice sideline routines, our pre-game routine, and the halftime routine. Which, we had to practice part of the halftime routine on our very own stage.

The stadium was awesome. Definitely nothing like Qwest Field, but had a great Hawaiian feel to it. And anyone who has been in a football stadium knows that it is at least 10 degrees warmer down on the field. I'm guessing today it was about 85 to 90 degrees out, no clouds in sight. So you can imagine how hot it was for us. I will have to be honest and say that not one of us looked as if we hadn't just taken a shower after practice!

It was interesting to see how each of us interacted with one another on a mutual field. We all had something to say about being in line with one another and had a few different opinions on how to do a couple of different moves. But what can you expect when you put 26 dominant females together and tell them to become a team? It was a fun experience though and was going to look great!

After practice was over, it was NFC1's squad that had a break until our team dinner tonight! Finally! A few hours to breathe! Well, that's what I first thought until I actually missed being rushed from point A to point B.

We then decided it was our turn to get our Pro Bowl rings. Now, let me quickly explain this tradition that was started, I believe, a few years back. A small jewelry store in Waikiki had agreed to make the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders' rings that only we could have. We can choose a certain design and have them engraved however we'd like.

On the outside everyone's ring says, "Pro Bowl Cheerleader," and inside I had engraved, "Melanie Seahawks 2008." Go figure, I know. We do have to purchase them, but what a great thing to have to remember this experience.

That only took a small amount of time, then it was off to catch some rays! Well, that's what I thought I was going to do until it started raining. At least I was able to spend some time with a few of the girls until it was time to get ready for our team dinner at Dave and Buster's.

At Dave and Buster's, we had a private room, which was great because we were able to get closer as a team. This time we got to learn a bit about our directors of e2k sports.

We were able to ask them questions, like they had been doing to us. One girl asked the entire staff if they could remember one Pro Bowl Cheerleader in the past that has made a big impression on them and stood out in their minds. You know who Ron said? Well, he mentioned it was our very own veteran Sea Gal, Trina! He said that her story of her family, where she came from, and her overall personality stuck out in his mind. I wanted to share that because I never had the honor of dancing with Trina, but luckily she had came this past year to choreograph a couple routines for us, and just based off of that I'd definitely agree with him. Way to go Trina!

Day 5- Friday, February 8th

Once again, it was an early morning, yet we had a few extra hours to re-energize until NFC1's appearance and performance at the Schoefield Barracks military base. I was really excited for this appearance because we all have a special place in our hearts for the men and women of our military. And a few months back, at the end of November, the Sea Gals Show Group had to opportunity to travel to Europe to entertain the troops and their families. Being a part of our show group, I was able to experience how much they appreciated us being there and what a great feeling it was to hear their stories.

We arrived in uniform ready to perform, yet when our music didn't work we figured we'd start out with signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone instead. The room was filled with military men, women, and children extremely excited to see us. There were even families there with Seahawks jerseys on! I was so excited to see fellow fans.

I also met a few men being transferred up to Washington's Ft. Lewis military base, so that was exciting to know that the Sea Gals and I would probably see them in the near future because we do a lot of appearances there. We love our military!

Finally, we were able to perform for the crowd, tell them a little bit about ourselves, and ask some NFL trivia! It was so much fun to be able to interact with the crowd! But soon enough it was time to hop back into the vans and return to the hotel for dinner on own.

Day 6- Saturday, February 9th

Oh my gosh! Is game day really tomorrow? This week has already gone by in a blink of an eye and to think all our work was going to end before we knew it.

I'm going to call this day our "marathon day." From the time we wake up at about 5am to about 10pm at night, we will have been just about everywhere! Or so it seems.

After our 7am breakfast call, we were to leave for Aloha Stadium in shifts; AFC squads 1 and 2, then an hour later NFC squads 1 and 2. To those who don't know, the word "Ohana" means "family" in Hawaiian.

Ohana day at Aloha Stadium has been a tradition in which the NFL football players from both the AFC and NFC get to practice and interact with fans on the field, while the cheerleaders get to perform, practice, and interact with the fans as well.

It was a great practice for us. We got to perform our sidelines and even perform our pre-game routine in front of the crowd for the first time.

When Ohana day ended around noon, it was time to change into our practice attire for rehearsal at the stadium. Luckily, we didn't have to drive anywhere and lunch was provided for us! Game rehearsal lasted a couple of hours and by then we were all feeling pretty comfortable with all of our routines for game day.

But the day wasn't over yet! They decided to get us nice and sweaty just in time for another appearance and performance. Luckily we were able to run back to the hotel for 10 minutes to freshen up (I kid you not, it was honestly 10 short and sweet minutes).

We then rushed back to the vans and were on our way to the Pro Bowl Football Festival at Kapiolani Park. We dropped our things off in a dressing room and ran up to the stage to perform two of our game day routines.

Now, every time we perform, we also get introduced to the crowd so they know who we are and what team were from. I saw a lot of Seahawks fans out in the crowd and definitely had to stop for pictures with them!

Next, we were off to our signing booth where the line was already formed before we got there. Autograph signings are always fun because it is a way to meet our fans and be able to let them know how much we appreciate their support. So, thank you fans!

What a day it has been so far! It's not hard though when you love your job and love entertaining people. That's why I couldn't wait until our next performance! We jumped back into our vans and headed off to the Pro Bowl All-Star Block Party. The streets were closed off to traffic and booths were set up all throughout the main street of Waikiki. Our stage we would be performing on was located right outside the Mariott Hotel, and they were nice enough to give us a conference room to set all of our things in. Before I knew it, NFC 1 and I were headed out the door to perform.

We were escorted through the hotel by security and out to the streets where thousands of NFL fans were waiting. All I heard was, "Seattle! Over here! Picture over here!" It was crazy, and so exciting! We were then called up on the stage by Maria of e2k where we danced and were interviewed by the DJ.

It's such a different experience being on stage versus being on the field. Being on stage with fans so close to you definitely has a more of a personal feel to it. But we did great and it was like I've danced with these women my whole life. We then returned to our dressing room and awaited our next call to the stage while AFC 1 had a chance to go perform for the fans.

So much for down time! I felt as if we just sat down and got a drink of water when we were called to the stage again. But I loved every minute of it. I had so much fun at the Block party and unfortunately after our second performance, it was time to head back to our hotel. It was time to get some rest for the big game tomorrow! Go NFC!

Day 7- Sunday, February 10th

Finally, it's game day!!! To think that I thought this day would never come, yet it snuck up on me so fast I could hardly believe it. It was time to shower, primp, and prepare for one of the most memorable experiences that I will carry with me forever.

Every time I put on my uniform I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I was to be here and how I wanted to represent my directors, team members, and organization in the best way I knew how. I was given this amazing opportunity and I felt as if I had to pinch myself each day to remind myself that this was real.

It was such a bittersweet feeling today knowing that this was the last time I would perform as a team with these amazing and talented women, yet I was going to return home in a couple of days to the team that got me where I am today.

Excited to be on our way to the stadium, yet halfway still asleep, our entire line of vans suddenly pulled to the side of the road just off a freeway exit. I wondered what was going on until I saw 5 policemen on motorcycles waiting to escort us to the stadium! What a way to make an entrance!

We were then taken straight to our dressing rooms where we had a few minutes to touch-up before the Official Pro Bowl Tailgate Party. With our security never leaving our side, we walked through the crowd into the biggest tailgate party I've ever seen! You had to even have tickets to get inside, so it was very exclusive.

For about 20 minutes we were able to walk around, sign autographs, and take pictures with our fans before heading over to the performance stage. It was the entire group of AFC Cheerleaders' turn to be introduced first to the crowd and perform two of our game day routines. Next, it was NFC's turn to be introduced and perform. What a great group of fans! We all had a blast out there.

Heading back to the dressing room, we had about an hour to relax and get ready before we had to be out on the field for pre-game. It was definitely hot out there, but we were well taken care of!

As the announcer said, "Football fans! Please welcome your 2008 Pro Bowl Cheerleaders!" The fans cheered and we ran onto the field to take our pre-game positions. During the routine each cheerleader was announced by name and team while we had an 8-count of music to dance to our own choreography front and center. It was short and sweet, but yet another moment to really take it all in.

When Kelly Rowland sung the national anthem she had us all just about in tears! It was amazing to see her sing in person and all the special effects that went along with it. Now, as you may know, the Sea Gals are at every home game, on the field, and we get to experience everything that goes along with being on the sidelines. So, what made this game out of the ordinary? (Well, besides the fact that it was the Pro Bowl game). What made it so different was that we were all able to go up to the fans, take pictures with them, and sign autographs! It was really funny though because we were all very hesitant at first to do this knowing that it is not something we are able to do at our regular season games. But we had a lot of fun with it and the fans seemed to love it!

I mentioned earlier that we had the opportunity to dance with the band, Lifehouse, at halftime. So when I realized that we were already being called to our positions to get ready, I didn't think my smile could have gotten any bigger, but it did!

It was everything I thought it was going to be, and more! I can't say that I've ever been a part of a live halftime show like that before, fireworks and everything. There were fireworks coming out right on the stage that we were dancing on! And knowing that, we had to be pretty careful getting down as we ran to the locker rooms to take a quick break.

That's how it was the whole trip; running from point A to point B, literally. And this time I just about ran right into Lifehouse as they were heading back to their locker room right next to us. Oh, but I didn't mind, we all managed to get a great picture together. This day just kept getting better and better!

Whew, so are you still with me? It was back to the game we went, and by our separate NFC and AFC squads 1 and 2, we were taken up to the side stages located around the stadium. Having a different view of the field on stage, dancing above the crowd was such an awesome feeling. It was all about having fun, interacting with the fans, and cheering on our all-star NFL players. We were up there for quite awhile and were able to do a couple dances, then it was back to our field positions we went.

When Laura, from the Minnesota Vikings, pointed out that it was already the two-minute warning (I was still on cloud 9 from this whole experience), I just couldn't believe it! I could've stayed on that field for hours more feeding off of the energy from the fans! At least the NFC was winning, so I let it slide. What a great game that was!

Heading back to the locker room, smiling faces turned into joyful tears, as we all realized it was all over. For most of the girls, it was really over. They were moving on from their professional cheerleading careers and this was their last game forever.

When we got inside the room, Ron and Maria told us to get in a big circle and sit down. One by one, Ron asked us our thoughts and feelings about everything that had just flown by this whole week.

Let me just tell those who don't know me too well, I don't get emotional all that often. As Stacey from the New England Patriots puts it, "Crying is for sissies!" Right Stacey? When it came my turn to speak I just couldn't hold back. I know I've said it before, but I explained to everyone that being a rookie on the Sea Gals this year, I still couldn't believe I was chosen to be here.

I was given the honor and privilege by my directors of representing a group of women who all deserved to be here too. I had met the most amazing people in one week that I will never forget. But all good things must come to an end, right?

With that in mind, I will make sure I take back a piece of every woman here. Every single one had an amazing story, personality, and a passion for what they did. They were all here for a reason whether their directors or teammates chose them, and it showed.

I heard this quote once: "Make every day count. Appreciate every moment and take from it everything that you possibly can, for you may never be able to experience it again." That is exactly what I did.
This was a once in a lifetime chance and it was because believing in myself let others believe in me. What I will take back from my experiences at the Pro Bowl will be with me forever. This was a true blessing.

I want to thank my director Sherri Thompson, and assistant director and choreographer, Robin Houlbjerg and Shannon Kingsley for giving me this amazing experience. Being a part of the 2007-2008 Sea Gals has changed my life and I'm honored to hold the title for the 2008 Sea Gals Pro Bowl Cheerleader.

Thank you to Maria, Ron, Diane, and John of e2k sports and our security team for providing the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders with a new family and memories we will hold in our hearts forever and for making this experience possible.

"One passion, one love, one heart"

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