There are currently 32 teams in the NFL yet, in 2006, there were only 25 NFL Cheerleading squads. Many NFL fans don’t even realize that some teams still don’t have them. It wasn’t until the NFL Network put together an NFL Cheerleader Competition that it really got notice. The Jets established a group of female flag carriers in that 2006 season and joined the majority of the league in 2007 with the New York Jets Flight Crew. However, the remaining 6 teams haven’t yet followed suit but that may be changing soon in 3 cities. One group put together a squad in Detroit in 2010 called the Pride which performs at different events supporting the Lions and then has a block of seats together in the stadium for the games to cheer on the Lions from the stands. That same group put together the Cleveland Spirit Cheerleaders in 2012, supporting the Cleveland Browns.
In New York City, where the Flight Crew began the movement to put cheerleaders on all NFL Sidelines, the New York Giants got their own unofficial group in 2011.
Ana De Villegas, who spent a season as a member of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, was the driving force behind forming the Gotham City Cheerleaders and is currently their Director and Choreographer. As a director at BroadwayDanceCenter, she worked with some of the best dancers and choreographers in the world and was even involved with workshops taught by the Knicks City Dancers.
With all the dance talent in the New York City area, it blew her away that the Giants didn’t have a cheerleading squad. A lot of girls grow up all over the world taking dance classes and there are so few avenues for them to keep dancing into adulthood that sometimes someone has to create new opportunities for them. Not everyone wants to dance on Broadway or anything on that type of level but professional cheerleading is a way for young ladies to keep dancing into adulthood while still working on their careers and families. In a city as large as New York City, there have been a lot of girls deprived of that opportunity and by creating a new squad, Ana did a great deal to rectify that problem.
In forming the NY UnOfficials, Ana first tried contacting Giants management but when she failed to get a response, she realized that maybe the best way of getting a Giants cheerleading squad was to create one herself. Sometimes, people and organizations are resistant to change and in order to affect change, someone has to show them the benefits like, in this case, what kinds of positives a cheerleading squad can bring to an NFL team. If she created one herself, at the very least it would create some opportunities for NYC-area dancers. Of course the ultimate goal would be to be asked to become the official cheerleaders for the New York Giants and to achieve that goal, the squad has to put forth an exceptional product and let Giants management see what a valuable part of the organization they can be.
Putting a squad together wasn’t that arduous a task as it turned out and when you consider the size of New York City, that’s not surprising. Together with another dancer, Ana started recruiting through word-of-mouth and before long, they had over 100 emails with questions and resumes.
Forming the squad was just one step towards the ultimate goal. The next step was in building a brand and for that, the dancers who joined the squad would have to embrace the squad as their own. It would’ve been easy for those first dancers to have gone after a spot on a more established squad and with the uncertainty surrounding a brand new squad that had no official allegiance to an actual team, who could blame them?
Whether it’s an established squad or a brand new one, professional cheerleaders put in a lot of work year-round that the casual fan isn’t aware of. Between practices, workouts, and meetings, being a professional cheerleader is practically a full-time job but without the pay. It takes a special breed of person to dedicate themselves to something they get little, if any, pay for. Some have asked why they do it if they don’t get paid for it and the answer is actually pretty simple. They love to dance; to perform; to give back to their communities. To do all that, they don’t need an established squad because they get to do all that and more while Gotham City Cheerleaders. What’s more is that they get to be pioneers and open up opportunities for future cheerleaders.
On gamedays, the girls arrive at the stadium 4 hours before kickoff and start off the day at Redd’s Restaurant, right behind the stadium. They then perform at various tailgate parties they’ve been requested at up until gametime including a big one at the Fan Van Party Bus at G16. Several of the girls that don’t go into the game and cheer in the stands make appearances at the post-game tailgate at Redd’s.
Find out more about the Gotham City Cheerleaders at http://www.nyunofficials.com/
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