Sports teams across the country have elite squads of super enthusiastic, uber fit cheerleaders who help to motivate their team to a win and entertain the fans. These athlete-models do their best to show their support for their team and fans by doing choreographed dance routines, twirling batons, performing gymnastic maneuvers, shaking pom-pons, and getting the crowd to make some noise.
Most cheerleaders get their start in high school and university. Only a select few make it as professional cheerleaders for sporting teams in the NHL, MLS, NBA, or other sport leagues. By far the most popular professional cheerleaders work the sidelines of the National Football League.
In 1954, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts started the first professional cheer squad. As the entertainment value of the NFL grew, more teams created all female cheer squads such as the Cincinnati Ben-Gals, Carolina Topcats, Oakland Raiderettes, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Over the years, cheerleading has grown into part of America’s football culture. Currently 26 of 32 NFL teams have a smiling cheer squad at every home game.
Most teams only play a handful of home games, which makes cheerleading a part time job. Cheerleaders are still required to practice several times every week, attend training camps, and cheer on game days. They also run cheer clinics, participate in calendar and photo shoots, appear at charity events, travel abroad for USO events, and help with team events. It’s a full time commitment.
Almost every professional cheerleading squad has annual tryouts. To attend tryouts, you must be at least 18 years old, have a GED or High School diploma, maintain peak physical fitness, and have another full time job. At tryouts, cheerleaders must perform dance routines, make public speeches, and demonstrate their fitness. They are often required to go through an interview process, display a unique talent, and even take tests and write essays. With only 30 to 40 cheerleaders per team, it’s a competitive process to land one of these coveted cheerleader jobs.
Teams are very selective in their hiring process because the cheerleaders will represent the team and organization. Once hired, cheerleaders have to follow strict rules about tanning, undergarments, vision wear, hair color and style, social networking, feelings, standing, eating, showering, skin care, weight, breath, feet, makeup, shaving, “jiggle tests”, cleansing, and more. It takes dedication to make it as a cheerleader.
With all the rules and time commitments, cheerleaders may only be paid $50 to $150 per home game. On average, most cheerleaders make about $1250 per season. Most cheerleaders last less than 4 seasons before moving on. NBA cheerleaders may make more money because there are more home games. Some NFL cheerleaders made headlines in 2014 by suing over the minimal pay and huge time commitments. This may change the world of cheerleading in the future.
Cheerleaders do get perks like gym passes, spa packages, and other freebies, but the biggest perk is the exposure that they receive. Many cheerleaders use cheerleading jobs to jumpstart their modeling, dancing, or acting careers. Maybe you’ve heard of famous cheerleaders like Paula Abdul, a former LA Lakers girl, or Teri Hatcher, a former cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers? Other celebrities with cheerleading on their resume include Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Steve Martin, George W. Bush, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Cheerleading alone is not a sustainable career due to the time commitment, rules, and low pay. Many cheerleaders value the experience, exposure, and extra income. If you’re an enthusiastic athlete, with model like qualities, who enjoys the spotlight and wants to cheer her favorite team to victory, then maybe you need to tryout to be a professional cheerleader. Go team!
Quick Facts About Cheerleaders
Job Title: Cheerleader
Office: Sporting events
Description: Motivate team to victory and entertain fans during sporting events
Certifications/Education: None required
Necessary Skills: Enthusiastic, Super fit
Potential Employers: Professional sports teams
Pay: $50 to $150 per home game