Thursday, May 22, 2008

Charlotte Lady Cat Amanda 

Posted by James at 8:00 AM ET

Charlotte Lady Cat Amanda didn't dream of dancing in the NBA or cheering in the NFL while growing up in North Carolina, because there were no major league teams in the state at the time. But eventually expansion came to Carolina and Amanda earned the opportunity to cheer and dance for not just one but three professional teams: The Charlotte Lady Cats, The Carolina TopCats, and the Charlotte Honeybees. Throw in a two-year stint as a Washington Redskins Cheerleader Ambassador when she worked in the nation's capital and she's done quite well for someone who never even thought she would have chance to cheer professionally.

Amanda started dancing at age five and cheered throughout high school at Parkland High in Winston-Salem. At UNC-Charlotte she was a member of the school's official dance team the 49er Gold Dusters, and graduated with a BS in Business Management/Human Resources.

Amanda, Charlotte Lady CatAmanda, Charlotte Lady Cat

Out of school Amanda says Professional Cheerleading was the natural next step in performing. When the opportunity came up to audition for the Panthers, She decided to give it a shot.

Telling herself that she would be fine no matter what happened, Amanda arrived at Ericcsson Stadium (now Bank of America Stadium) on audition day, pinned her number to her outfit, made a few friends upstairs to keep her company. She remembers taking a peak at the field from one of the luxury suite windows high above and wondering if she'd be down there performing.

When she was done with her audition, Amanda was thinking - "It's fine if you didn't make it this year, you took a chance, you showed up, you did your best, there's always next year." She didn't have to wait for next year. Her name was called (she describes as one of the best feeling of her life) and advanced to the next round. She was hooked and eight years later she's still in the game.

Amanda, Carolina TopCat
Amanda in her rookie TopCat season

Having danced in the both the NFL and the NBA, I asked Amanda what was the biggest difference. Her answer was "The Fans".

She explained that it's a function of the number of home games. In the NFL she saw many more season ticket holders. And it's only natural to begin to connect with them more and more throughout the season and from year to year. She describes the first NFL pre-season game is always like a reunion with your closest friends.

She describes the NBA as equally great, but in this case you are meeting many more fans at their first, or a father taking his young son to an NBA game for the
first time. With so many more NBA games Amanda says it creates more opportunities to hear those stories and be a part of those memories.

As for a favorite moment in her pro cheerleading career Amanda can't pick just one. In the NBA, she says it would have to be when the Hornets made the playoffs in 2001. The energy and excitement of the fans was like nothing she had ever experienced. She says she's usually very calm before performances- but the playoffs create a whole new world for NBA dancers.

As for the NFL her favorite moment came in her second year when the Panthers defeated Cincinnati 52-31. Carolina had started the year off great and then lost eight games in a row and it was starting to feel like the 2001 season all over again. The Panthers were coming off a win on the road against Cleveland. Amanda's a huge Rodney Peete fan and she was hoping he'd have a good showing on the home turf. The game seesawed: one team would score, then the other, but in the 4th quarter it was all Panthers; she says it was one of the best victories she experienced as a TopCat.

And Amanda says there are some feelings that are part of any particular moment. Such as being able to be a part of a new team in Charlotte and help start traditions or being part of the rich tradition of Washington Redskins.

Amanda, Redskins Ambassador
Redskins Cheerleader Ambassadors Amanda and Sara

Some of Amanda's best friendships have developed from being a member of these squads. And this will come as no surprise to longtime readers of the blog, the one thing she's had in common with each experience is meeting and working with the most amazing women. They're mothers, lawyers, accountants, teachers, students, and friends. They all have dance in common and they all have the love of our teams in common - and in the beginning that's what brings them together but in the end they become your family.

When she wasn't on the field or the court Amanda's been working in the financial industry for the past 12 years, mostly in support roles for commercial sales teams until recently deciding to make a career change to executive assistant. Currently she's an Executive Assistant for a senior level executive at a Fortune 10 Company.

She doesn't find balancing work and cheering difficult at all. She says it's all about time management and prioritizing. She will admit that she has had a
stressful moment or two where she's felt the pressure of having to be a million places at once, but she's always been very honest with herself and quick to
remember what comes first in her life. She says as long as you know the time commitment involved when you join a team then everything else just falls into

But Amanda's real passion is volunteering with various charities in her community. She volunteers two Saturdays each month at the Charlotte Visitor Info Center helping people navigate the city on their visit or assisting folks that are considering a move to Charlotte find out more about the city. She also just wrapped up leading her company's campaign for the 2008 March for Babies benefiting the Local March of Dimes Chapter. The campaign is projected to surpass $75K in funds raised for the cause. Amanda also assists at events with the The Hendrick Marrow Program and will begin volunteering regularly at Charlotte's Levine Childrens' Hospital this summer.

She hopes one day to create and run her own non-profit that benefits the welfare of children.

Meanwhile, Amanda's currently single and is glad to be back home in North Carolina. Her immediate family is also close by in other parts of the state. Her Mom & Dad (married for 38 years!) live in Clemmons and a sister and brother-in-law are in Asheville.

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