Six years ago, when I was a freshman in college I auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Never have I faced challenges like those during that long three month period of auditions and training camp in 2006. Let’s start with the beginning. Living in a small town two hours west of Dallas I have always lived in the Cowboys Nation and looked up to the DCC. As long as I can remember, people have told me “you should be a DCC!” Even during a swing dancing competition in 2011 I had a judge tell me “you know, you look like a DCC, you should audition …" I just smiled and said “you are right, maybe I’ll do that! (again)." My love for the DCC was not from afar; my grandmother took me and my sister all over DFW to DCC appearances to meet them and get signed photos. I have a stack of signed squad photos starting from 1989 (I was three).
But back to the story... second semester, freshman year, I started to “get ready” for the 2006 auditions. I was so excited to be at TCU and close to the Cowboys, finally able to audition. Unfortunately I had never taken dance seriously. I only started in 8th grade and throughout high school only dance one night a week. On the other hand, cheer leading was my number one priority and love. During my freshman year it would have been beneficial to take a dance class but instead I took a few kick boxing classes at the gym and thought I was in pretty good shape. Oh, how naive! I was truly shocked to find myself making it through the audition rounds at Texas Stadium.
Everyone was beautiful and the dancing was so far out of my league I was trembling with embarrassment as I thought to myself, "what am I doing here." After the first round of auditions, I actually didn't see my number on the white board. If it were not for the girl next to me randomly yelling, “you made it” and hugging me I would have walked away.
With shock on my face I made my way back to my mom at the gate and we celebrated with tears and hugs. I was happy to make it to the second round and had very low expectations on the second day of auditions. We were down on the field and the dance moves they were teaching us didn't seem to be the type of dancing I associated with the DCC and I was utterly lost. As we made it back up to our seats and the judges came out for us to start I started crying. I was so disappointed in myself that I couldn't learn the material and went back and forth for several minuets trying to decide if I should leave or not.
The first of the famous "Kalli Breakdowns" started to happen; I patted my cheeks to try and pull it together. Ironically, I thought "I made it so far," had I only known I would make it to the very end of training camp twice, six years apart I might have been a little bit less weepy. Thankfully, I was at the very beginning of the large group of women or else I may have never got out on the dance floor. I did what they tell you to do, "just smile and keep moving." Even in 2011, I auditioned with a girl who got out on the floor and barley moved, forgetting all the moves she knew so well moments before. She did not make it to the next round but is now on the 2012 squad after a second audition.
Somehow, that tactic of "keep your feet moving" worked and Kelli called my name! Watching the show after I am still so honored that Judy said my solo was one of her favorites! If you can just make it past the second round finals is so much fun, because its your change to do what you do best. Even though I had a blast and felt confident, I again was completely taken aback when I made it to training camp. After almost missing my name on the board and barely able to say my name without choking up during the second round it was nothing less than a miracle.
Morning of my 1st DCC audition, 2006
I had met Erika a few weeks before auditions and we became quick friends. She was there to help me through the entire journey.
When I made it into Training Camp my best friend Logan had secretly decorated my dorm door
Training camp was beyond what I had ever imagined. Tobie and I had become good friends and lived together for that summer. She was an incredible dancer and it seemed so easy for her. I would practice, practice, practice and she would "review" and then get out there like a pro the next night; no wonder she went on to be a five year vet! The running before practice and then dancing for hours was grueling, but the most intensive part was having Kelli and Judy watch almost every practice. My feedback was consistent "nice smile... sweet smile... big smile..." followed by "lacking power... forgetful... forgetful..." I was called in to the office almost every week but felt like Kelli and Judy really wanted me to do well but they looked at me like a poor wounded puppy. By the last week of camp I was feeling much more confident and started to whisper to myself, "you are almost there."
The last week of training camp was coming to an end. I had the DCC squad photo day starred in my planner… I could see the end in sight! The last practice before squad photos we headed out the bubble on the Cowboys practice field at Valley Ranch. After quickly showing us the DCC stadium entrance they do before the games we were all spread out across the in-zone and made our attempts at the new choreography. Of course there are those that just "get it," and those Judy calls "take homers," I fall into that second group. I knew I was failing miserably and not "hitting my lines," but I kept on smiling. At the end of the night they had four girls stand up. We were surely the "maybe's" who's fate had yet to be decided. We turned away to Kelli and Judy and the rest of the girls and stud out on the field knowing this was it. The song they choose was one that we had learned recently and had a quick intro. I was the only one to start at the right time and was proudly beaming at that until I missed a change in the choreography as a result of messing two dances. The song ended and Kelli asked the girls, "who looks game ready?" My name was not called out.
We went back to the locker rooms and everyone hugged myself, Natalie, and two others. After Natalie went in and came out saying "I am going to go eat a hamburger," I hugged her and went back to telling myself not to cry. I went into Kelli's office and I knew immediately it was my "last night." I was still very heartbroken and it was very difficult to let go of all that comes with making it to the end of training camp, most importantly your friends. I was devastated at the time and knew that no matter how we tried, the friends I had made would go on and we would loose touch.
However, God knew what was best for me, and I believe, He had a hand in helping Kelli and Judy let me go. I adored college. I was a leader in my sorority, Pi Beta Phi, found my passion for geography, and most importantly was able to spend my college experience with the love of my life. If I had made DCC in 2006, I would have never been able to continue to be a crucial part in my sorority, which I loved. My education would not have been as important, and as a result, I might have never found my niche leading me to be a Geography Professor and do what I love everyday. And, I know without a doubt, I would never have been able to give as much time to the Lord, or my love; trying to juggle all of that would have been an impossible feat and I know something I loved would have dropped.
That audition lead me to find out who I really was, and even more importantly, what I really wanted.
Training Camp 2006