New York Cheerleader Tryout Tips Part 1

Do you live in New York, Philly or in close proximity to either of these areas or are you looking to relocate to the area, and have had the deep desire to cheer for a professional team? If so, then you are in luck! After speaking with a few professional cheerleaders, Gillian, Maria and Christie, who have not only cheered professionally, but have also tried out for a number of other teams in the area, we have put together some pointers to hopefully help direct which team(s) you choose when stepping into the rigid competition of cheerleading.

The teams covered in this article span New York’s presence in NBA, NFL, and Lacrosse including; New York Lizards, Gotham City Cheerleaders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers.

Knicks Cheerleader


You know yourself best. You know your strengths and your weaknesses. Having a desire to perform and knowing in what area of dance you excel, will help in choosing the best team(s) that fits for you. Not every team is looking for the same type of cheerleader. Just like on Hard Knocks this year with the Houston Texans, Coach Bill O’Brien knew that Charles James would be a fantastic cornerback and had a hard time letting him go, but it’s not what they needed on the Texans this year and with only 53 spots they had to go with other talent. With cheerleading the same rules apply. What does the team need that year, do they need a strong hip-hop, jazz, or high-kick style dancer, or do they need a certain demographic, or maybe they need someone with strong communication skills who excels with media. What is that, ”IT” factor that the teams are looking for this particular year, and do YOU have “IT”?


First things first, before you even walk into the arena, onto the field or into the gym, in what style of dance do you excel? Maria digs deep to try Philly Chearleaderand decipher the dance styles for each of the teams she either danced on and/or tried out for, she states, “The Nets look for hip-hop, almost street style, they incorporate some technique, as well as a hint of jazz. The Nets do a wide variety, so you have to be adaptable, but if I had to pick one, they lean towards that hip-hop, street jazz style…The 76ers are more jazz based with a hint of hip hop. The Knicks influence is more jazz, almost theater centered. They have been experimenting with their style the last few seasons though, so it could change in the next year’s tryout”. In Gillian’s opinion she says the Knicks have an, “intense style; very technical-based. They tend to gravitate toward a very well trained team, which incorporates lyrical, ballet, and hip-hop. Technical dance training is a necessity, ballet especially. As for the Lizards, which Maria is still a part of, Maria says, “they are pretty evenly split between the jazz feel and the hip-hop flair”. “The Jets have a fun and sassy style, but also feature kick-lines in their routines, so flexibility is a must,” says Gillian. Gillian, who is a former Gotham City Cheerleader, and says their style is, “jazz with a street flair, sometimes they dabble in theater as well as sassy hip-hop”.




Now that you have indicated what style of dance you shine in, can you freestyle? Every team except one, from all of the Northeastern teams these

Lizards Cheerleadersyoung ladies tried out for had some type of freestyle. Gillian said, “The Eagles were the only team I tried out for that didn’t require any freestyle,” and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum you have the Jets which Gillian says, ”their open call first round is exactly 90 seconds of improv, in groups of five people at a time”. That’s a long time to freestyle, which means endurance is a must and the ability to concoct a fun routine on the spot is an essential. Maria stated that, “sometimes the freestyle was incorporated into the dance and some times it was the entirety of the round”. The point is when you walk into a tryout, you better have at least two eight counts of choreography established that shows off your talents and gives you confidence, and if you don’t, you better have a knack for freestyling. I can tell you from my own experience, you never know what type of music they are going to play, so be ready for a slow or fast beat of a variety of rock, country and/or hip hop.


Walk. It sounds simple, but it shows your confidence, your style, your charisma; bottom line is in cheerleading your walk matters. Some teams even have one round in which you purely walk the runway. They want to see how you present yourself at appearances, what you look like standing on the field, and how you will strut out for a performance. The walk, shows who you are, because once it gets to the choreography part, nerves are on high, and mistakes are made, which is to be expected.Sixers Cheerleaders


Third can you pick up choreography? For most of the teams, if not the first round, the second round you are required to learn a few eight counts and then perform them. If your weakness is quick paced learning of routines, maybe the Eagles are for you! Gillian said, ”The Eagles tryout was very efficient. The routine is taught for round one.  Some teams such as the Eagles teach their round one routine at their prep camp, which gives you a leg up at tryouts.


If you didn’t make it to prep camp though, you can practice round one as many times as possible while you are waiting for your number to be called.  What I mean by that is, the Eagles staff brings you into a ‘waiting room’ and play the round 1 music over and over, so you can practice as much as you would like, until your tryout number is called to perform before the judges.  The dances are fairly easy to catch on to.” Gillian went on further in saying, “The coach of the Eagles stated in one of the prep classes that she wants to give you the moves before tryouts to make sure you showcase your personality.”


Pro Cheerleading TryoutsOn the other hand you have teams like the Jets that have you learn the tryout routines and then, Gillian says, ”sit and observe as groups of five do the tryout routine and kick-line, which can take up to three hours.” With this style of tryout you have to have a keen memory, or the ability to shut things out and practice the dance pieces in your mind, so you are able to perform for the judges the routine you learned only a few hours earlier.

Gillian also broke down the technical abilities of the Knicks City Dancers. Gillian says, “you need to have years of dance training, very technical, fast choreography, basically if you don’t have a trained dance background the Knicks are not for you. The team could swap from Broadway to The Radio City Rockettes, to Knicks in an instant. They are very focused on pointed feet and arm placement. This is one of the teams that focus on talent way more than a particular look.   And as a side note they do their routines in character shoes (meaning 2.5in heels)”, so start practicing.

The Nets, Maria says, “expect their team to be very adaptable.  Depending on the game, their dancers may perform the same dance, but different parts depending on who they are performing with, at that particular game, so knowing all parts is a must.  The key is to be versatile.” This means that in tryouts The Nets most likely focus on your ability to pick up routines quickly.

Trying out for anything is always a leap of faith, but having as much inside knowledge as possible never hurts. The next ‘New York Cheerleader Tryout Tips’ articles will cover technique, prep classes, desired look, makeup and veterans.


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