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A Former NFL Cheerleader Goes Behind the Boots of Making the Team: Episode 4

Not all uniforms are created equal.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ uniform is iconic. It’s even in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. As if that weren’t enough, it carries extra weight this season as DCC celebrates the 50th anniversary of their signature uniform. 

So this week’s episode of Making the Team was special for the rookie training camp candidates. They got to try on the uniform for the very first time, for fitting day. The signature DCC uniform is custom-tailored to fit each woman; once they officially make the team, that is theirs and only theirs. That’s fairly uncommon. Other NFL cheer teams have a signature look or uniform, but a majority do not provide everyone with a custom-fitted uniform. Instead, the uniforms are custom designed and ordered from dance costume companies with generic sizes. They are passed down every year to the new cheerleaders. When I first tried on the signature uniform for my team, I was overwhelmed with pure joy and excitement and shed a few tears because I was finally living my dream. I may have already made the team, but the feeling didn’t really hit me until I put on that uniform. 

Cheer teams are also given a selection of other uniforms to use throughout the year instead of the singular signature look. So while I didn’t get that custom-fit uniform when I cheered, one of my favorite parts of game day was arriving at the stadium and finding out which uniforms we were going to wear. Every home game, I would bring a large suitcase to the stadium that included our eight-plus uniform options because our director would make the final decision on our uniform look that day. The team I cheered for was fortunate enough to have a variety of options to choose from, which gave us the luxury of changing up our look each week. 

The uniform means far more than an outfit worn on Sundays, though. In Dallas, once these women join the team, they become brand ambassadors for the Cowboys as “America’s Sweethearts” (yes, this is their official nickname). So another part of the audition includes showing that you have the capability to represent the brand well off the field. This week, rookie candidate Ava was pulled into the director’s office because of a video on her social media profile dancing to songs with “foul language” because “the gestures in it are questionable for an employer.” The directors were kind and gave her a warning instead of cutting her from the team. Nine women still need to be eliminated, and truthfully, I think any of the other rookie candidates in her situation would have gotten the axe. But Ava is a fantastic dancer, top performer, and has been a director’s favorite from day one. Football isn’t the only sport where talent can win out. When I auditioned, I knew all of my social media was being thoroughly examined and was always conscious about everything I posted. A mishap like this may be just a teachable moment for some but could be a dealbreaker for others. 

Ultimately, the focus of this episode was all of the training camp candidates learning a new dance from guest choreographer Denise Dicharry, the former LSU girls dance coach who has been choreographing routines for DCC for a few years. I had the opportunity to learn from her at a professional cheerleader convention, so when I saw her on the show, I was excited to see what she would contribute to the audition and team. Denise has a musical teaching style that is challenging; she choreographs to beats of the music instead of counts. What makes her great is that her style brings the best out of dancers. When she teaches, she knows how to push you to dance bigger and stronger but in a motivating way. 

We are in the fourth week of DCC training camp, and at this point, the directors want to see who is fierce and can command attention dancing on the field. Whether it is during training camp or during the season, these women are constantly learning new dance routines. Those who learn quickly, perfect the routine in time to minimize mistakes, and perform big while looking effortless will succeed. Directors Kelli and Judy ended up cutting rookie candidate Cailey because she wasn’t showing improvement in the strength and showmanship of her performances. The directors at this stage in the training camp are expecting perfection, so minor memory mistakes or not catching one’s attention while performing a routine can be a make-or-break moment. 

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