Bring It On – Texans Cheerleader Tryouts

Photos: Mike Welsch

The first thing I noticed entering the Methodist Training Center for Saturday’s Texans Cheerleader tryouts was the food. But the smell of burritos, the Tres leches staring me in the face and the lure of ice-cold Miller Lite was quickly put on the backburner as I noticed 425 of Houston’s finest women lit up in neon American Apparel dance wear complete with glitter, bedazzling and anything else you might imagine.

I’m a girl who prides myself on having no filter, not afraid of a single thing (except possibly karaoke) but I quickly realized it takes some massive ovaries to stand up in front of a hundred judges (mostly men) and show off your dance skills.

Here are a few things I learned:

Audition Attire: Taken directly from HoustonTexans.com, girls were asked to wear “dance hot pants or briefs (no thongs) and a midriff top.” Here’s my problem with that (and I’m not a raging feminist, so hear me out) – the mostly all-male judges in the audience can’t help but deem a girl appropriate for the team without taking her body into consideration. I understand all NFL cheerleaders have an image to adhere to, but some of the girls who were maybe 5lbs overweight or not as toned as they could be are getting points deducted four months before the season even starts. I’ve seen firsthand how hard these girls train and there’s no way they won’t be in tip-top shape come game day.

Beer Goggles. Tryouts were presented by Miller Lite, so naturally there was drinking involved. Judges, who were mostly season ticket holders, were given 2 sheets of paper with numbers listed on the left with a corresponding space to fill in the score. I noticed the score sheet of one of the guys next to me.

The first page looked like this:

B-, C+, D, D, F, Hell NO

The second page (after plenty of Miller Lite):

A-, A+++, A+ (she did the worm, that was AWESOME), A (hot boots)

You get the picture.

I’m not sure how weighted their scores were comparatively, but I also noticed many getting up for more beer, bathroom breaks and occasionally to get a number. So what happens to the girls they weren’t able to score while they were hitting on another girl? Or when they took a call from their jealous girlfriend outside?

The DJ: For the first 45 minutes the girls were arm length apart, stretching and learning the routine. They were then lined up in groups to head out in front of the judges and perform the routine.

Admittedly, I cannot dance. At all. But I must confess the two things that add or take away from my skills: the amount of alcohol and the music playing. Dancers usually count the beats and move according to the music but they were at the discretion of the DJ. He played anything from hard rock, rap, top 40, the Cha Cha Slide, and even some salsa inspired music. The girls on deck may have been warming up to the likes of Britney Spears and immediately have the tempo changed as they started their routine.

They were encouraged to add their own panache the last 10 seconds of the routine with ad-lib dancing varying greatly. I saw a few Jersey Turnpikes, but overall was impressed with the tumbling, inspiration and passion, and of course the one chick doing the worm. Mid-flip, one of the contestants lost her weave on the 20-yard line and didn’t miss a beat. Whether that was her personal flair she added to her routine or just a crazed mishap, it certainly got her some attention!

Veterans vs. Rookies: One thing most judges didn’t know is that veterans from last year’s squad were required to try out – they weren’t given free passes. It definitely reminded me of a scene from Bring It On as the groups of 5 lined up side-by-side battling for the judge’s attention.
As with anything, you tend to stare at the awkward train wrecks or the girls with the most talent. In the case where veterans were paired next to girls with raw dance talent, the newbies easily went unnoticed. The veterans have had a full year of training with NFL choreographers on how to capture the attention of football fans (simply men in general) while the others were hung out to dry looking like background dancers.

Myth- not all veterans make the squad. There are about 5-6 girls each year that don’t make the cut.

Veteran Vanessa. Photos: Mike Welsch

Vanessa, a 3rd year veteran on the squad (5th year tryout veteran) said returning to tryouts brings more pressure. “We have more to lose. The organization is always looking for something completely different and you may or may not have that,” Vanessa said. Vanessa said this year was different because there were more girls trying out which made her step her game up. “If I’m going to make it, I’d rather beat hundreds of girls than just five.” Vanessa is one of the 273 girls who made it past the first round.

Another veteran gave some insight into her game plan explaining, “Even after 2 years on the squad, I still get nervous. When I get out there, I find the girl that looks most like me and stand right in front of her.”

The Power Of Two: The Michelle and Rachel effect. If you thought going up against veterans seemed unfair and daunting, try going up against the leggy blonde bombshell twins, Michelle and Rachel Lewis. Veteran Michelle (#337) is vying for a spot and brought her look-a-like twin sister Rachel to try out with her. Both girls made it past rounds 1 and 2.

The Lewis Twins. Photos: Mike Welsch

The Houston Texans Cheerleaders have consistently been recognized as one of the best squads in the NFL. They are the defending NFL Dance Champions and were tabbed the best looking cheerleading squad in the league by BleacherReport.com.

I’m sure I speak for most Texans when I say Bring on the 2011 Texans Cheerleaders! And of course a winning team!

This article was featured on Culture Map, Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine in the sport’s section.