One Season Wonders – Nicole

The Charger Girls are one of the most prestigious and recognizable dance teams in the NFL. The competition to make the team is fierce with over 400 girls trying out each year for one of the 28 spots on the team. It’s a much coveted position with many off the field responsibilities, so it should come as no surprise that we have some girls that are only on the squad for one year.

And in this installment, we honor a Charger Girl that was on the squad for the 2013 season. She was a former Pro Bowl Cheerleader for the Seattle Sea Gals in 2011 and cheered for that team for six years before making the move down south to San Diego. And let me say that I was quite happy to see her in a Charger Girl uniform because she made quite a lasting impression. Introducing Nicole, a one season wonder.

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I was fortunate to photograph Nicole at the 2011 P-R-O Convention in Atlanta and I must say that though she looked great in a Sea Gal uniform, she definitely looked better in a Charger Girl uniform!

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Some Audition Tips From An Outsider

I originally wrote this article two years ago and I thought it was good audition advice back then, so I am reposting it again this year for those readers who may be considering trying out for a professional cheerleading squad.

Over the past few years, I have attended several professional cheerleader auditions and have made some observations that may be helpful to potential tryout candidates.  Now, I have no dance experience, no audition experience…nothing other than an observant eye and the ability to draw some obvious conclusions.

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So, here are my observations and tips for aspiring NFL or NBA cheerleaders.

1. Auditions are like job interviews, so you want to take this seriously and do what you would do when applying for a job…namely preparing, showing up on time, and dressing the part.  Follow the audition guidelines…if you don’t, it sends a message that you can’t.  So, if audition packets says to dress in a form fitting, two piece outfit and flesh colored tights…wear a form fitting, two piece outfit and flesh colored tights.

The judges want to see how you will look in the uniform and how you will perform.  Help them make a decision in your favor. Do what you need to do to have them envision you as a professional cheerleader.

2. Game day ready hair and make up.  Once again, you want to help the judges buy into the fact that you are cheerleader material.  So look the part.  Don’t show up looking like you are going to workout or a dance clinic.  Cheerleaders are glamorous and so should you be when auditioning.

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3. Wear an outfit that makes you stand out.  Judges will evaluate several candidates over the course of the auditions.  Wear something that makes you memorable and identifiable.  Leave a lasting impression, a positive one.

4. Go to the audition clinics.  During the actual audition, the time to learn the routine is all too brief.  So, any advance preparation that you can do is an advantage.  At some clinics, the audition routine is taught.  If practice makes perfect, then avail yourself to the opportunity provided to learn and prepare.

What separates those who make it to the next level from those who don’t, is the ability to learn a routine quickly and to perform it flawlessly in the short amount of time given.  This leads us to our next tip…

5. Get some dance training.  There are many girls that can dance and may do so well.  But few are trained dancers, who have a framework for learning technique in a structure manner.  Those girls who have had dance training stand out in two important ways: 1) they are more technical and 2) they are able to learn a new routine faster.

6. Bring water and snacks.  All the auditions that I have been to, have been long and rigorous affairs.  You will burn a lot of energy and sweat a lot, so refuel and rehydrate yourself at every opportunity.  Keeping up your energy level is important, particularly when you are in front of the judges…which is usually at the end of the day.

7. Be articulate.  At some point, you will be interviewed and asked some questions about yourself and why you want to be on the squad.  You’d better have an answer.  Think about the questions they’ll likely ask you and prepare for them.  Be insightful, be professional, and be articulate.

8. Go big or go home.  In all the auditions that I have been to, those dancers that stood out had big moves…precise moves…fast moves..powerful moves.  One of best dancers I have ever seen is Amy Toliver formerly from the Arizona Cardinals.  Her moves are big, powerful and precise.  She stands out.  When you are in front judges, your moves better have some pop, else you’ll be viewed as a the dance equivalent of a wall flower.

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I am sure there are many more tips out there and if we have any current or former professional cheerleaders reading this, please leave a comment with your audition advice.

Good luck!

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More Photos From the 2015 Pro Bowl

Here are some of the left over photos from my road trip to the 2015 Pro Bowl game.

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Road Trip: The 2015 Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl is a fun filled week of activities for the football fan…or at least it was when I went back in 1995 and 1996.  Back then, it was held in Honolulu, Hawaii and it was pretty much five days of football fun set in the most beautiful tropic resort area in the United States.  If you tired of schmoozing with retired NFL greats or shooting the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders, you could always check out one of the many attractions that Hawaii has to offer or hang out in the North Shore, like I did.

Good times.

So when I heard that the Pro Bowl was coming to Glendale, Arizona, I was intrigued by the possibilities.  And when Mad Max, our former Arizona Correspondent who now lives in the Midwest, invited me to go to the game, I was excited at the prospect of shooting the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders once again and checking out this new fangled, NFL fantasy football game they now call the Pro Bowl.

Well to make a long story short, the game is not what it once was and the NFL may be struggling to figure out how to maintain the Pro Bowl’s relevance in an era where All Star games are more like MTV’s old Rock N’ Jock than real sports play.

At least the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders were the same…and by that I mean top notch!

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I will say this about the Pro Bowl, the vibe at this game was fun and mellow.  Fans of all teams mingled together in the Gameday Fan Plaza, sharing stories of the season and generally having a great time together.  There was none of the usual alcohol induced bravado or animus that you normally experience at a regular season game.  It was chill and people were having a good time, a good time with fans from other teams.

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NFL Cheerleaders at the 2015 NFL Experience

I was in Phoenix today at the NFL Experience, hanging out with Mad Max and Pro Bowl Dan and we were fortunate to photograph some NFL cheerleaders at the event.  So here’s a few photos from the event.

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Stay tuned for more coverage of the 2015 Pro Bowl game.

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Weekend At Bernie’s – Part Deux

This past weekend, I spent some quality time over at Bernie’s.  That would be Bernie Lilavois and the Ontario Fury of the MASL.  Indoor soccer is fast and furious, kind of like what Arena Football is to NFL football.  The action is non stop, the scoring is sudden, and this weekend…physical.  I went to see some indoor soccer and a hockey game broke out.

Yes, there is boarding in the MASL and like hockey, when you slam a player into the boards, that’s a penalty.  And yes, there are goons in the MASL and like hockey, when you cheap shot a guy, there will be retaliation.

I saw a lot of hockey type action in the two Fury games that I attended…and as a spectator…it was a lot of fun to see.  Fast break action and thuggish play to boot!  Well, I guess that’s one way to try to stop the Fury…or not…both opponents, the Turlock Express and the Las Vegas Legends, lost to the home team.

But the real reason for my return visit was the Ladies of Ontario Fury.

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Lynae de Leon, the director of the dance team, let me know that the Ladies of Ontario Fury were going to be performing a special Cowgirl themed dance on Sunday, so I was eager to forgo my NFL Championship Game watching to be able to photograph the hottest dance team in the MASL one more time.

So here is a collection of images taken over the course of two days with the lovely Ladies of Ontario Fury.

Pregame Meet and Greet

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Top 10 Cheerleader Photos of 2014

Now that I have had a chance to recover from Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations, it is time for my annual retrospective of the top 10 cheerleader photos of the year.

Through my association with UltimateCheerleaders.com, I have been to a number of professional cheerleading events in 2014, from auditions to the premier professional cheerleader convention in the United States. And over the past year, I have literally taken thousands upon thousands of photographs and in this article, I am going to highlight my favorite cheerleader photographs of 2014.

Over the next few days, I will be counting down my top 10 cheerleader photographs of 2014. So let’s begin.

10. Charger Girl Lindsay in her Salute to the Military uniform

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Those people who know me best, know that I am not a big fan of special occasion cheerleader uniforms, especially when it comes to my Charger Girls. I think that they have one of the most distinctive and, if I may say so, sexy uniforms in all of professional cheerleading. So when it comes to these special occasion uniforms, I feel that they are hardly more enticing than the Charger Girls regular uniforms. But there are a few circumstances when a particular Charger Girl wears one of these special occasion uniforms and they make for a wonderful image.

So it was the case when Lindsay, whom I call the Chargers Golden Girl, looked amazing in her Salute to the Military uniform…a tight fitting green outfit honoring the U.S. Army. A beautiful girl with a great smile, vivid colors and a figure flattering costume make for one dynamic image, one of my top ten favorite images from 2014.

9. Phoenix Suns Dancer Ariel at the 2014 Suns Dancers Auditions

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I have been covering the Phoenix Suns Dancers auditions for the past several years and it is one of my favorite events to cover because the girls are absolutely gorgeous and I always seem to get some very compelling photographs. This year, it was a challenge because the venue was very dark and the hip hop oriented choreography was very challenging to shoot.

Shooting leaping movements is always difficult for me because I usually shoot in the portrait orientation, but after watching the audition routine being demonstrated, I knew that this jete turn would be a very compelling photo if I could get the shot properly framed in my viewfinder and hit the movement at peak action. And to compound the challenge, I would have to hit the focus point on her skin to properly expose the shot.

Well I got lucky…I waited for peak action, hit my mark, and framed Ariel just right so that I could crop the final image to give a sense of scale to the shot and got a proper exposure.

So that in a nutshell is why this is one of my favorite shots of 2014…a compelling photo of a beautiful dancer at the height of her jete turn.

And let me say, Ariel is as beautiful as they come. See more photos of Ariel at the 2014 Phoenix Suns Dancers auditions here.

8. St. Louis Rams Cheerleader Breanna

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A little known fact is that the St. Louis Rams, when they were the Los Angeles Rams, were my favorite NFL team when I was growing up.  And when I got the opportunity to cover their auditions a few years ago, I was excited and this has become an event I forward to every year.  I love the fact that their final auditions is pageant style and that it has three phases: interview, swimsuit and dance.  There’s a lot to shoot and I always get some interesting images of the Missouri’s most beautiful women.

During the course of an audition, I usually spot one or two newcomers who clearly have that something extra that makes them stand out from the rest of the hopefuls, and this year it was Breanna who caught my eye.  Good looks, great dancing ability, and that special presence that demands your attention were the reasons why she made the Rams Cheerleaders and certainly why she made this list.  She’s something special.

See more of Breanna at the 2014 St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders Final Auditions here.

7. Ladies of Ontario Fury Dancer Brittany

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One of my guilty pleasures is covering the Ladies of Ontario Fury because I am given a lot of freedom when I cover them during game days and auditions.  And this freedom usually expresses itself in some very compelling photos of some very beautiful girls because the more you are able to do photographically and creatively, the better the final image.

This photo may be the sexiest photo I took all year.  The girl in question is Brittany Wagner, a second year veteran who is D.D.G.  Drop.  Dead.  Gorgeous.  She also happens to be Miss Universal City 2014 and is currently competing in the Miss California USA pageant as I write this.  She is strikingly beautiful…as you would imagine a pageant girl to be.  And she’s a terrific dancer with great body lines in her movements and poses.  She’s also really nice, which is neither here nor there for the purposes of this list, but I thought I would mention it because its true.

What I like about this photo is 1) the beautiful smile on her face; 2) the sexy pose that doesn’t reveal too much, if you know what I mean, and 3) the vaguely Patrick Nagel look about Brittany in this image.  So this is why this image is one of my top ten photos of 2014.

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See more photos of Brittany at the 2014 Ladies of Ontario Fury dance team auditions here.

6. Charger Girl Alexa Flutie

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There are many beautiful and talented Charger Girls.  Hey, its Southern California and you really can’t walk 10 feet without bumping into a gorgeous girl.  I suppose its the great weather, wonderful lifestyle and the relaxed attitude that makes this the closest thing to paradise.

Yeah, we attract our fair share of beautiful and talented people out here and that is most definitely applicable to the Charger Girls.  And that certainly applies to our next cheerleader, Alexa who really gave me some very interesting photos this year.  I love the sense of movement you see in her hair and her smile that is peeking through really depicts the joy that these girls feel when they are performing on the field.  So that is why this image is one of my top photos of the year.

5. Phoenix Suns Dancers Audition Hopeful

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The Phoenix Suns Dancers audition is one of my favorite events of the year to shoot.  I think I mentioned that I always get a lot of interesting photos of some gorgeous girls at this event.  Phoenix has them in abundance and the Suns seem to get more than their fair share of lookers to come out for their auditions.

I must say that I was quite taken by this one dancer.  She is strikingly beautiful and a pretty good dancer too.  She has model good looks and my gaze always seemed to find her in that sea of pretty dancers.  She’s just one of those special girls that stand out for her beauty.

So why is this photo, one of my top ten of the year?  I am not quite sure.  I have taken other photos that are more dynamic in terms of aesthetic pose or dance movement.  I have taken other photos that are more colorful or visually striking.  But there are few that I enjoy more than this one.  I guess its one of my favorite photos simply because I relate to this girl more than the others.  And that’s good enough for me.

4. Ladies of Ontario Fury Dancer Michelle

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The Ladies of Ontario Fury are a cool gig to shoot and this marks the second instance where a photo of one of their cheerleaders made my Top 10 list.  This is Michelle C. and she is one of my favorite cheerleaders to photograph.  She’s as pretty as they come and I love their squad’s uniform.  The bright colors and figure flattering style really make the girls look attractive and sexy.  And for me, a cool looking uniform is important.

Hot girl.  Sexy uniform. Beautiful Smile.  Everything you would want in a killer photo.

3. Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader Jeanne at the 2014 P.R.O. Convention

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The event that I look forward to the most is the P.R.O. Convention in Atlanta.  Imagine over 300 of the hottest professional cheerleaders all in one place, all gussied up in their game day uniforms and all tricked out.  Its an amazing event to shoot.

The Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders are one of the squads that puts out a full force effort.  They always send a number of girls to the event and a variety of game day uniforms for the girls to wear.  The MVC are a squad that stand outs and one of the MVC that stood out the most was Jeanne, a beautiful blonde with an amazing presence.  And in this shot, Jeanne was doing a clapping, swaying motion to the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy”.

I just love the way she looks, the motion of her hair, and the color of her uniform.  It all makes for an interesting photograph.  You can see more of Jeanne and the rest of the 300 P.R.O. Convention attendees here, here and here.

2. Charger Girl Angela M.

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I can honestly say that over the past few years, Angela has been one of my favorite Charger Girls to photograph.  Since her first day in the uniform, I have gotten more “keepers” from her than any other Charger Girl.

I have said in the past, we have some strange mojo going on in that she’s killing it and so am I. And the end product is…amazing.

In simple terms, the subject and the photographer have to relate to each other in order to get a dynamic shot and for whatever reason, I relate to her well.  There have been other gorgeous Charger Girls that I simply haven’t developed that special vibe with them and when I look at my images, I can see that the magic isn’t quite there as it is with Angela.

I don’t know what it is, we just click….photographically speaking.  And since this may be her last year on the squad (she’s getting married soon), I was fortunate enough to get one last killer shot of her.

Sheer bliss.

1. Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader Hopeful

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The Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders audition is one of my favorite events to cover because I have a great time and I always get some of the most memorable images of the year.  The girls are gorgeous, they wear some of the most colorful audition outfits and the venue allows me to get some nice, contrasty images.  This is a recipe for success…they only thing I need to do is to pick my spots and choose my shots.

Gorgeous girl + great dancing + cool backdrop = top ten photo…and this one is my favorite photo of the year.

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