My dad always told me, “if you want something to get done, give it to a busy person.” Which lines up perfectly with the quote, “ There’s no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something you’ll make time for it,” unknown. Brittani Walker is a living example of both of these quotes. The light is at the end of the tunnel as she is in her senior year at Missouri Southern State University looking to complete her degree in May in Graphic Design while also dancing for the Missouri Southern Gold Dance Team. Not only are school spirit and a solid education important to Brittani, but also the ambition and thrill to perform in fan-filled arenas. In her ‘spare time’ she is a member of The Joplin Blast, which is the first ever-professional dance team for The Joplin Blasters Baseball Team as well as performing in her rookie season with the Tulsa Oilers Hockey Team as one of their infamous Ice Girls!
We are all fans of something, whether that’s our favorite band, sports team, comedian, or X-games athlete. And with that we sometimes forget how much effort is put in before and after the shows to make each and every event the spectacle that it is. Do you ever think how much time and effort the lighting and set-up crews put in to get the concert to be the exhibition you see as the final product? Well the cheerleaders are no different to your favorite sports team as the set up crew is to your favorite artist. Fans sometimes don’t think about how much grind the squad puts in to help create the total fan experience you get at each and every home game. Now you take each of the teams that Brittani represents and accumulate all the practice hours and you have yourself one tight schedule. Brittani practices six days a week, five of those are with Missouri Southern and one with The Oilers, when The Blasters were in season she also had those practices on Saturday mornings. Each of her practices last two hours. You might be thinking, that’s not too bad, but don’t forget about the community service projects, appearances, individual practices and workouts outside of rehearsal. Still maybe you think that’s do-able, now add on, university classes, a full-time job, and here is the real kicker, Brittani says, “I live two hours away from Tulsa, so I’m frantically practicing the dance routines in my head as I am driving (safely of course, she giggles) to and from practice. There are only 24 hours in a day, so I have to get it in when I can because anyone that has been on a team knows that team practices are not for the individual to get better, but to bring our team or whatever team you are a member of together as one unit”. If as a cheerleader, you don’t have your part nailed down when you get to practice, you can best believe you won’t be making that particular game, or for that matter, be asked to come back the following year. Brittani says, “I am taking nothing for granted. My dream was to make this team, and as exhausted as I may be, the will to fight through to get the most out of this opportunity is what will shine through.”
The Tulsa Oilers Ice Girls have three parts to their squad: ice-skating, dancing and promotions. I didn’t realize until I started looking into The Ice Girls, but the girls who clean the ice are incredible skaters. They are extremely talented in what they do. The Tulsa Oilers Ice Girls, have three lovely ladies who are devoted to the skating portion of the squad. They all three come from an ice-skating background.
Then you have the dance team, this is the part of the team in which Brittani is involved. They perform on platforms on opposite sides of the arena whenever there is a stop in play. The Ice Girls arrive for the games at 4:30pm for a 7pm game. They are the first individuals to greet the fans as they walk in the doors starting at 6pm and minutes before the game starts they rush down to get their poms in the dressing room and run out to the ice for the opening number. The opening number involves the National Anthem and the introduction of the players. They then head up to the rafters and dance the entire game, getting the crowd pumped up. After the game is over they join the owner of the team, and some of the players for meet and greets with the fans in the One Oak Bar in the arena. They are the first ones the fans see when they enter the game and the last individuals they see as they are exiting.
When I asked Brittani, why she decided to cheer for The Oilers, she said, “To be honest I am a HUGE hockey fan. I understand the game and truly have a passion for it.” As she gets more animated in her tone, Brittani says, I really get a kick out of seeing the fights sometimes. The last game there were a few fights. Seeing the hockey players’ aggression as they take their gloves and throw them to the ground shows the athlete’s passion for the game and their competitive nature to win for our team. It’s a thrill and shows a desire for success!”
It’s the simple things in life that truly matter. Getting to cheer or dance for a professional team is huge. There are a select few that get the opportunity and it’s usually a short lived dream, so you have to put the most into every aspect of the team, or else it passes you by and you are left thinking, “What if?” When I spoke with Brittani she excitedly asked, “Did you get a chance to see our new uniforms?” I had and if you haven’t seen them, definitely check out their website, the cute blingy uniforms definitely show off the amazing bodies they work so hard for. http://www.tulsaoilers.com They were also able to dress up for Halloween and all rocked the nerd look, making nerds a very desirable breed!
Cheerleaders for any team add so much to the fan experience, for young and old. As Brittani is in her senior year with the Missouri Southern Dance Team, she reminisces, “When I was in elementary school, I was chomping at the bit to dance with the high-school dancers at their football game. Now as a Southern Dancer, I am able to give that same experience to young ladies, who join us dancing twice a year. I tend to choose to work with the older girls because I love hearing them clamor about all their excitement in trying out for their prospective middle school teams the next year. It’s great to be able to give back, as I lived the exact same sensation of excitement.”
Brittani was able to be a part of the first cheerleading squad for the Blasters. When I asked her to tell me her most memorable moment from the team, she fervently responded with, “For one of the games, The Webb City Little League Baseball Team was out of the field for opening ceremonies. As they were exiting, the coach asked if the team could perform ‘The Whip’ with the cheerleaders. My coach thought it would be a fan favorite idea. Instead of dancing one of our normal routines however, we switched it up on a whim and had the baseball team join us. The crowd loved it! You could tell some of the boys had some serious practice time in the mirror. They were killing it!” Brittani thoroughly enjoyed her time with the Blasters. She said, “It was different than any other team I had been on. One of my favorite parts of being on the squad was on game days we got to walk around and interact with the crowd in-between dances, sit with them, visit with them and get them up and involved in the festivities”.
Brittani is not living her life through that of others, by watching television and scrolling social media news feeds. She is taking life by the horns and creating her own story. As she completes her degree in Graphic Design she will look to nail a job that feels like a hobby, signifying a job that a person looks forward to going to day in and day out. She ends with a fantastic quote, “Nothing worth having is given to you. Dreams are reached by hard work and dedication.”
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