Monday, November 10, 2008
She was told that the minute she got off the plane in California, she would turn around and head right back home to Indiana. After all, Alayna was seemingly entrenched. Born and raised in Indianapolis (and with all of her close-knit family still living there), Alayna graduated from Indiana University, and had a job with a good boss in Indianapolis. She had cheered for powerhouse Indianapolis high school Ben Davis, cheered and danced at IU, and was a two-year Colts Cheerleader with a Super Bowl ring to show for it.
But Alayna was looking for a change of scenery and wanted to test herself, so she took a leap of faith and a new job in northern California. She gave herself one year to see if it would work out, but a year has come and gone, and she loves her new life. As she starts her second season as a Warrior Girl in the NBA, with an amazingly positive spirit, Alayna looks ahead with great anticipation to a fulfilling future.
When she moved to California, Alayna told herself that she would be open to any opportunity that was available. Since she had entered pro sports through the world of football, she thought, why not try basketball. It is a lot more games than football, but Alayna loves being part of the Golden State Warrior Girls. She thinks Warrior Girls coach Susan is amazing, bringing top-level choreography to the squad. Last season's squad was mostly rookies, so Susan had to find a way to make dancers of multiple levels mesh with a unified look. A lot of patience and time paid off. Alayna loves the Warrior Girl routines, and has risen to a higher level of dancing ability with the varied styles that a basketball dance squad can provide.
Alayna in the lower left
Being in a new city, Alayna feels blessed to be part of an amazing group of girls. The difference of being part of a smaller squad compared to football is that it allows close-knit relationships among the entire group. Alayna comments, "You get to know everyone on a closer level, and they become family to you, especially when you have 41 games and you see them at three practices a week." In a group of 17, you know when and why squad mates are having great days and not so great days. Being part of the squad gives her friendships and a sense a family that would be difficult to achieve for a newcomer in such a short time.
Besides being the focal point of entertainment during center court routines, the Warrior Girls literally sit along the sidelines during the game, so frequently players step on or fall across multiple girls. One memorable moment for Alayna last season occurred during a close game, in which the Warrior Girls were on the court as the crowd really pumped up the volume before a big finish. With all of the adrenaline rush, Alayna ran off the court, not even realizing that one of the referees was right in her path. She collided with the ref, he didn't budge, but she found herself sitting on the court. She picked herself up, and finished running off the court. And I am sure there was a smile on her face.
I visited with Alayna as the Golden State Warriors kicked off their home pre-season against Oklahoma City back on October 11th because the Warrior Girls were not part of the sideline entertainment on this day. Once the players had finished the game, the Warriors and the veteran Warrior Girls were immediately off for a flight to China (via Alaska) for two pre-season games and a week long trip. So the Warrior Girls used this game to help familiarize the rookies with game day protocol, and to be all packed up and ready to go overseas once the game was over.
Alayna in the lower right
Opportunities like the trip to China contribute to the unique experience that is professional cheerleading. During her time with the Colts, Alayna had the opportunity in 2006 to tour the entire country of Japan for three weeks on an entertainment tour, in addition to some time touring Hawaii. For many of the Warrior Girls, the trip to China would be their first real international experience, so there was a lot of anticipation and excitement. Alayna's employers in Indiana and California have been very supportive and flexible when such opportunities to travel arise. She says, "I seem to be really lucky, my bosses love what I do, they think it's exciting for me. They enjoy the fact that I get to cheer in front of a lot of people, and they've never met anyone in professional sports before. Actually, when I told them I had the opportunity to go to China, my boss said, 'You ARE going, right?'"
It's amazing how much being part of pro cheerleading can add to one's life. Alayna emphasizes for those who want to make a squad for the first time that they need to do their research. Learn how the squad dances, examine their look; study up on all you can.
Besides family and friends, I asked Alayna what she missed about Indianapolis. If she was experiencing any level of homesickness, a litany would have poured out. Instead, she paused to try to think of something that she missed. The ability to drive from one side of Indianapolis to the other in 20 minutes, compared to the traffic of the Bay Area (like 75 minutes from work to the arena on game night) came to mind. And there are no Chick-Fil-A's in the area, so she has to wait to visit Indy to get her fix. But she truly loves the Bay Area; emphasizing that there are always lots of things to do, great opportunities, and good weather.
Alayna evaluates how long she will continue to be part of pro cheerleading on a year to year basis. She will know when it is time to stop. Off the court, with her degree in Public Health Education and Public Policy, Alayna's dream career path is to be a hospital administrator, leading to being a hospital COO. With her innate positivity, and the value she places upon personal relationships and teamwork, Alayna certainly will achieve inner satisfaction, accomplishments, and provide happiness to others, no matter what life brings. After all, California dreams do come true.
[Golden State Warrior Girls]