By Lloyd Jones
April 14, 2016
Jamie McDonough is now a cheerleader for the New England Patriots. (COURTESY PHOTO)
CONWAY — Jamie McDonough has dreamed of dancing professionally for as long as she can remember. That dream will become a reality this fall at New England Patriots games.
Jamie, 23, formerly of Kearsarge and now of Boston, learned last week she’s one of the newest members of the Patriots cheerleader dance squad.
“I am so overjoyed,” Jamie, daughter of Alena and Tom McDonough of Kearsarge, said Friday by phone from Florida where she was visiting her sister, Lauren. “Trying out for the team was very personal to me so I kept it pretty quiet and didn’t tell many people about it.”
Jamie was one of 33 women — and 20 rookies — selected from a field of 420 women to cheer for the Patriots.
The dance team performs at all home games. They are required to attend a minimum of two rehearsals per week.
Jamie is a 2011 Kennett High graduate, and her news was greeted with excitement on the Conway campus.
Junior Esmae Doucette called it “crazy and awesome,” as she gave the student representative’s report to the Conway School Board on Monday.
“We’re all very proud of Jamie,” Principal Neal Moylan said. “We’ll be rooting for her and the Patriots, of course.”
When Jamie cheers in her first game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in August, when the Patriots play the New Orleans Saints, it will be her first time cheerleading.
But she has been dancing for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve been part of the Act I dance troupe at Tina Titzer’s (School of Dance in Fryeburg, Maine) since the age of 3,” Jamie said. “Tina is like family;, she’s been such a great figure in my life.”
Jamie also was captain of the dance team at Kennett High, and remembers competing as an Eagle around New England.
“It was such a great experience,” she said.
Jamie continued to dance at the University of New Hampshire. She graduated last May with majors in international affairs and communications and minors in dance and Spanish.
At UNH, “I became an advanced tapper,” Jamie said. “I love to tap dance.”
Jamie, who works by day as a study abroad facilitator in Boston, sees joining the Patriots cheer squad as a way to continue her love of dance.
“I’m psyched to be a part of the team. The (squad) has less of a focus on stunts but more on performance, which I want. As long as I can remember I wanted to dance professionally, and now it’s going to happen.”
Tryouts for the squad took place at Gillette Stadium on March 5.
Jamie McDonough in 2009 at Tina Titzer’s Dance Studio. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)
Jamie said she did a lot of research and prepared thoroughly.
“Walking in there at Gillette was incredibly intimidating,” she continued. “I have to say all of the girls were just so nice. The director (Tracy Sormanti) is a dream. She told all of us she was so proud we were here and willing to do this.”
The prospective cheerleaders were called in one by one to perform a freestyle dance to their own choreography in front of four judges.
“I felt like I made a good introduction,” Jamie said. “The Patriots are looking for someone who is happy and nice, who interacts with fans and is well-spoken and confident.”
The audition continued with everyone learning a group dance. “It was an opportunity for us to show the judges what we remembered,” Jamie said. “I started out with no expectations, which is why I was so surprised I made it to the next round.”
The final audition was a one-minute solo dance along with an interview with the director.
After the finals audition, the coaches trimmed the field to just 48 women, who were invited to attend the Patriots’ four-day boot camp held over two weeks (from 7 to 10 p.m. midweek and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on the weekends, plus an hourlong exercise with a personal trainer each day), which would eventually determine the 33 to make the team.
“It was physically intense,” Jamie said, “but I really loved it. I got to meet and dance with the Patriots cheerleaders who were already on the team. Everyone was so nice. The Patriots audition process is one of the longest in the NFL.”
The 2016 team was announced April 3. The roster was posted online that evening.
“I did my best to distract myself all day,” Jamie said. “I wanted it so badly for myself and also for the other girls who have overcome so much adversity. I really made some good friends from this experience.”
Jamie McDonough (right) said Alyssa Crane (left), her UNH colleague, also made the Patriots squad. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Jamie was delighted to see Alyssa Crane, her teammate on the UNH dance company, also made the squad.
“We decided independently to try out,” Jamie said. “It was pretty much, see you there, but after each rehearsal we’d text each other.”
The cheerleaders started practice Tuesday, April 12, with a team orientation.
“I am so thrilled,” Jamie said.
According to the website Ask.com, Patriots cheerleader earn about $75 a game, though NFL cheerleaders with prior professional experience can earn up to $1,500 per month.
Cheerleaders also get free perks like beauty care, gym memberships, season tickets, travel, photoshoots and team gear, the website said.
“During the season we’ll be going to the games and making professional appearances,” Jamie said.
She said she looks forward to meeting the Patriot players.
“Julian Edelman is first on my list,” she said laughing. “I’ve never been anything but a Patriots fans; it makes this all so exhilarating. My mom and dad and sister have said they’ll be there for the first game.”
Jamie hopes her success will inspire other dancers.
“If you have the passion, you can persevere,” she said.
You can follow Jamie and her teammates online at www.patriots.com/cheerleaders/roster