Six Year Veteran Mekial Feels the Actual Adrenaline Rush of Dancing for Chicago’s AFL Team

Mekial, left, performs during the 10-year Adrenaline Rush re-union

Mekial has been a member of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers for six seasons, but it only took one game for her to understand the true meaning of the squad’s name. “My first memorable moment dancing with the Adrenaline Rush Dancers was my very first game,” Mekial explains. “No matter how many games I perform and participate in, nothing can replace the feeling or experience of your first performance. During the opener, the lights were turned off, there were fireworks, sparks, flashing lights, and smoke. To hear the announcer introduce us over the speaker, and to hear the fans cheer for our team was the best feeling I have ever had. When I first became a member of this dance team, I couldn’t understand why we were called the Adrenaline Rush Dancers. It became apparent during the opener of my first game when my adrenaline literally rushed throughout my entire body.”

And luckily for Chicago Rush fans, Mekial has not been in a rush to leave, having the longest tenure on the squad that just completed their 2011 AFL season. UltimateCheerleaders had the wonderful opportunity to learn about multi-talented dancer Mekial, who also plays four musical instruments and wrote a Master’s thesis on the terrorism threat. And once a year, Mekial leaves her mark on the Mall of America’s inventory.

Mekial was born and raised in the Chicago area, within a close-knit family. Mekial’s parents and brother played an influential role. “Some of my favorite childhood memories definitely revolve around my family,” Mekial shares. “My family means the world to me and I don’t know what I would do without them.”

Mekial’s father taught her to stretch her boundaries. “During my childhood, my father always took me fishing or I would sit in the garage on the ground and watch him work on cars,” Mekial recalls. “My father would teach me the difference between a screwdriver and a wrench. As a child, I would fetch his tools whenever he needed them. My daddy always taught me that even though I am a girl, I still needed to become familiar with certain activities that were male dominant.”

Mekial’s mom created special memories during the important seasons of the year. “My mother always made my holidays special,” Mekial describes. “If it was Easter, she ordered a life-size Easter Bunny to visit my house for an hour, and if it was Christmas, she always taught me how to make gingerbread houses. No matter what kind of group or function I was a part of, cheerleading, school plays, dancing, graduations, piano recitals, et cetera, my mother made my childhood special and unique because of one contribution: support.”

Mekial’s brother provided an example path for her to follow as needed. “Having an older brother always had its perks during my childhood, “Mekial recounts. “No matter what my brother did, I wanted to be just like him. I would follow everything he did. As I got older, I continued in my brother’s footsteps in life, and he is the main reason why I earned my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in the field of sociology and criminology.”

Mekial (right) during pre-game

Mekial’s academic path lead her to a degree in MALS Futuristic Methods. “MALS was my major for my graduate degree,” Mekial explains. “It stands for Master of Arts in Leadership Studies with an emphasis on Futuristic Methods. Futuristic Methods concentrates on the driving forces, factors, and variables of the past and present to determine and forecast the most logical outcome in the future. I completed a 60-page thesis dealing with ‘The Alternative Futures of Fighting Terrorism in the United States.’ Since the interest has heightened at an alarming rate in the past several years, as the result of the 2001 terrorist attacks on our U.S. Soil, our United States Government has been implementing a short term view on the war of terror. This thesis forecasted three alternative future scenarios of the role the United States and Homeland Security could possibly utilize to help fight terrorism. Some futurists foresee that America must field its own counter-terrorist army of trained, experienced, and open-minded personnel who can understand terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda. In this thesis, I felt that there was a slim chance of terrorist attacks decreasing over the next seven years’ my forecast covered and focused on the future up till the year 2015.”

Mekial’s well-balanced canvas of diverse interests also includes a lifelong devotion to music, as both a performer of music and dancer. “I play four musical instruments,” describes Mekial, whose musical heroes include Jackie Wilson, Michael Jackson, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ray Charles, and Elton John. “I started playing the piano at the age of four. I was enrolled in the Wheaton College Suzuki Prep Program for the piano. This is where my classical music training began. I graduated from the Suzuki prep program at the age of seventeen. I started the saxophone at the age of eight and became first chair in my junior high and high school bands. I began playing the flute at the age of twelve. And I became intrigued with the violin at the age of thirteen at the Suzuki Prep Program.”

Mekial leads the way on to the field

Continue reading Six Year Veteran Mekial Feels the Actual Adrenaline Rush of Dancing for Chicago’s AFL Team AFL Dream Team

Sports Illustrated has a new gallery of photos of this year’s AFL Dream Team. arena Football cheerleaders/dance teams are a rare sight on, so this is a treat. Click here to go there now!

Businesswoman by trade, cheerleader by passion

Barnstormers’ Emily Collins picked to perform tonight at ArenaBowl XXIV
Kristin Danley-Greiner
Des Moines Register
Aug. 10, 2011

During the day, Emily Collins sports business attire and a professional demeanor.

At night, she can be found dancing on a football field and cheering from the sidelines as a Barnstormers cheerleader.

The one thing Collins carries over from cheerleader to her position in the Des Moines city manager’s office is a beaming smile and optimistic attitude.

“Emily is always upbeat, positive and encouraging to others. She is a ray of sunshine in the office,” said Amelia Hamilton Morris, chief communications officer for the city of Des Moines. “However, she is also a professional, educated female who is very serious about her career and climbing the ladder of success both in City Hall and in the Barnstormers operations.”

Collins, 28, of Des Moines is a Lincoln High School graduate who started dancing at age 4. Her passion for entertaining a crowd carried over to her high school drill team. She later danced with the Central College pom squad. As a transfer student at Iowa State University, she coached and choreographed the Ballard High School dance team and choreographed for the squad at Collins-Maxwell schools.

Collins has a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State in mass communications and is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration at Drake University. Four years ago, she was selected to be a Barnstormers cheerleader and became a co-captain her second year with the squad, a position she still holds.

She said she tried out for the team because she missed performing. The schedule pairs well with a daytime job at City Hall.

“We practice Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings and most of our games are on Saturdays — unless it’s an NFL Network game, then that’s on Friday nights,” she said.

Previously, Collins choreographed more of the routines for the squad, but has since relinquished most of that duty to her “talented and very artistic” co-captain. She fulfills administrative-type duties, such as handling promotions and costumes.

“The promos are a lot of fun, because we get to be out in the community,” she said. “We’ve been with the Girl Scouts, the Marshalltown Farmers Market, lots of parades and we had our kids’ clinic at the July 9 game, which was really fun. Those little kids are just adorable and you don’t realize how much they look up to you.”

This season Collins was selected to be part of the Arena Football League’s AFL Dream Team. Each franchise’s management submitted two cheerleaders’ names to the league. In an online voting process, one girl from each team was selected to perform in ArenaBowl XXIV. That game is tonight.

“This is the second year they’ve done this and I’m really excited,” Collins said.

“I’ll get to meet other girls from all across the country. It’s the Superbowl of the AFL. There’ll be a commissioner’s awards dinner, photo shoots and more.”

Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team – Part Two

Seems like it was a long time, but just three weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting Jacksonville and seeing the Sharks Attack Dance Team. That was the last game of the regular season. And tonight the Sharks are playing the Arizona Rattlers. Some technical difficulties prevented me from getting this post online until now. But I just wanted to say what a great time I had in Jacksonville. Kimberly Newbern and her dance team were absolutely wonderful: great team, hot uniforms, and genuinely nice people.

Rachel - The new gray uniforms - designed by Director Kimberly Newbern, just might be my new favorite uniform.

Rachel - The new gray uniforms - designed by Director Kimberly Newbern, just might be my new favorite uniform.





Continue reading Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team – Part Two

Emily is in her Element with the Adrenaline Rush Dancers

Emily signs the Adrenaline Rush Dansers poster for a young fan after the last regular season home game

“Emily loves applause.”

That was the first line in a newspaper story about Emily of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers back when she was in elementary school. Her local paper did a piece about Emily’s fourth/fifth grade holiday season program back home in the Bay Area of northern California, and Emily was quoted in the article saying, “Hearing the applause makes me feel like I’ve done a good job. (Our teacher) cries when we do a good job, and she cried at this one, which means we did a really, really good job.” Emily was quoted about one of the holiday dances that she performed, “The dance had lots of steps and kicks.”

Well, I hope Emily still loves applause, because she hears a lot of it as she performs with her ARD sisters at Chicago Rush AFL games. The Rush made it to the final four of the AFL, but Arizona sidelined their ArenaBowl plans for this year. But around the time of the season’s final regular season home game, Emily graciously participated in an interview with UltimateCheerleaders. We will learn about Emily’s path from Cali to Chicago, her love of both dance and chemistry, including Emily’s favorite element. And not her favorite dance element, but the elements in that big periodic table of chemical fun.

Emily was born and raised in Sunnyvale, California, not too far from where the AFL’s Saberkittens perform now for games in San Jose. Family time was a precious time for Emily growing up, as she explains, “My favorite childhood memories definitely involve family gatherings. Every summer we would go down to Carmel Valley and spend the month with my Dad’s whole side of the family. Holidays were also some of my favorite times because we would get to spend time with the entire extended family, including relatives that lived across the country. I love my family and they are a big part of who I am so most of my favorite memories involve them.”

Emily and Amber after the game

During these formative years, Emily developed two keen interests, dance and chemistry. Emily says, “I have been dancing ever since I can remember. When I was little I used to put on Disney movies and act them out in my living room, including dancing and singing during all the songs. I didn’t start formal classes until I was older, but the passion has always been there. My parents were always supportive of me in whatever I wanted to do, so dance was no exception. My dad always said I didn’t seem complete unless I was dancing, and he was right!”

The other side of Emily’s brain was also finding a source of interest in other topics. “I have always enjoyed the math and science subjects,” Emily explains, “But my high school chemistry teacher was the first person to spark my passion for chemistry. He taught it in such an engaging way and I took to it right away. I just find the subject so interesting and exciting, and there is always something more to learn.”

Emily soon would be on the move to SoCal, to become a student at USC. “After high school, I went to the University of Southern California for school where I met the best friends anyone could ever have, and had probably four of the best years of my life,” Emily recalls. “I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology and was involved in a myriad of clubs and leadership activities.”

Emily’s next steps would soon send her to the Midwest, and she explains, “After graduation, I spent another year in Los Angeles working as a pharmaceutical sales representative, but I always knew I wanted to go back to school. I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the University of Michigan to get my Ph.D. in Chemistry, so I could one day teach at a university. During my time there, I fell even more in love with teaching, but realized the research aspect of the program just wasn’t for me. I left the program with my Master’s Degree and moved to Chicago to start the next chapter of my life. And here I am!”

When asked about her ‘dream job,’ Emily responds, “My dream job would be to teach organic chemistry at a University. I really enjoy working with college students, and I would want to share my passion of the subject with others and potentially influence them to think of the subject differently.”

But in all those years of chemistry, did any experiments ever not go as planned? Did any ever go ‘ker-blew-y’? Not all experiments go ‘swimmingly,’ as Emily explains, “Chemistry experiments go wrong all the time, so I have had plenty that have not worked. I have never had an experiment blow up or anything, but I have flooded the lab with water before!”

So, in that big periodic chart that hangs in chemistry classroom walls, full of noble gases, metals, no-metals, and halogens, what is Emily’s most favorite element? “I have never really thought about having a favorite element, but since I like organic chemistry I would say Carbon,” answers Emily. “It is such an important element that is involved in making up so many things in this world, which is just incredible. The same element makes up the human body, charcoal, and diamonds!”

Continue reading Emily is in her Element with the Adrenaline Rush Dancers

Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team – Part One

Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team

Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team

The Sharks Attack Dance Team are under the Direction of Kimberly Newbern. Kimberly is just finishing up her second season running the squad.

Her background in cheering and dance includes over thirty individual National Championships. Kimberly cheered for three seasons with the Jacksonville ROAR and even traveled to Greenland to perform for the troops.

In 2007 she was asked to audition for the movie Bring It On-In It to Win It, where she coincidentally played a Shark and Shet dancer.

Director/Choreographer Kimberly Newbern

Director/Choreographer Kimberly Newbern

Today Kimberly has her own gym, (First Class Athletics) where she coaches the Sharks stunt team. She’s also been a member of Sweethearts for Soldiers since 2008, traveling to the Middle East to perform for the troops.  As she continues to grow her team, she’s looking forward to getting the squad involved with supporting the military.


Assistant Director Dr. Jill, PharmD

Assistant Director Dr. Jill, PharmD

This season Jill hung up her boots and took over as Assistant Director.

Another member of Sweethearts for Soldiers,  Jill’s also a full-time pharmacist with a national retailer. (I won’t mention any names, but their logo is a big red bulls-eye). She’s having a wonderful (and busy) time running her own pharmacy again. But there’s till time for some R&R. She recently celebrated her 1st anniversary with a trip to Central America.

[Sharks Attack Dance Team]

Randi is the Sharks Attack Dance Team Rep for the Dream Team

Congratulations to Randi of the Jacksonville Sharks Attack Dance Team on being chosen to represent her squad at Arena Bowl XXIV.

Randi is a graduate of the University of Alabama. This is her first year on the team.

[Randi @]

Ashley Fashions a Dance Career with the AFL’s Chicago Rush

Ashley F. is one of three “Ashleys” on the Adrenaline Rush Dancers (wonder if they lead the league in Ashleys?), and the “F” must stand for fashion. After all, how many people have kept a “fashion journal” so they don’t repeat outfits within a few months (listed by Ashley as her “Worst Habit” on her on-line bio at the Chicago Rush website)?

For Ashley, fashion has been a lifelong love, as she says, “I was always into fashion! I was the little girl that dressed up for any and every occasion! Although, I must say I went thru many trends and fads.” Ashley continued, when asked when she recalled first insisting on dressing herself, “I can recall being in 4th grade when my mom told me she had picked out an outfit for me, but I insisted that I could put something together myself. I clearly thought it was a ‘cooler’ outfit of course, too.”

When asked if she remembered any outfits that she thought particularly “rocked,” Ashley recalls, “As far as an outfit I thought rocked, it just depended on the grade and style I was going thru. If you asked my mom she would take it back to 3rd grade when I had my striped Unionbay t-shirt with my tan corduroy shorts that I wouldn’t want to take off. I had a pleather black skirt and a red Minnie sweater that I thought was adorable when I was four! In 6th grade I went thru an Adidas stage, 8th grade consisted of poncho sweaters, and high school I went thru a creative unique stage and slowly transitioned into business attire consisting of dress pants and skirts. Usually whatever I was wearing, I felt I rocked because I was so in love with keeping up with fashion.”

So, Ashley, if you were on “Project Runway,” would you prefer to be a designer, model, or judge? “If I were on ‘Project Runway,’” responds Ashley, “I would want to be a part of every aspect of the show; designer, model, and judge! I’ve taken sewing classes in high school and I loved it so much I retook the class! Being creative and brainstorming on how you could influence others by designing something a customer could essentially fall in love with is just amazing to me so designing would be such an honor. Modeling would be just as fun; being involved with fashion shows, walking the runway, being involved with designers, et cetera, how could it get any better? Lastly, is the power you would have as a judge. You’re able to give your feedback and explain why you may or may not see that outfit or product sell or be beneficial to a designer’s collection. Every part of that show is full of excitement!”

Ashley’s love of both fashion and dance are reflected in her college studies, “I went to Purdue University Calumet and graduated this past May with a major in Business Retail and a minor in fitness.”

“My love of dance started when I was three,” Ashley, who was born and raised in the Northwest Indiana section of the Chicago Metro area, recalls. “My mom put me in a dance class at our local community center for a session or two. I quickly moved into a studio in which I like to say I ‘grew up’ in and took tap, ballet, and jazz until I was 18. I also belonged to a singing and dance troupe where we performed at various places around the community, Sea World, Universal Studios Orlando, and ended at Disney World for the 4th of July. I also was on my middle and high school team, and then also on my college team.”

Continue reading Ashley Fashions a Dance Career with the AFL’s Chicago Rush

For Brittanie of the AFL’s Dream Team, Sweet Home Chicago is the Perfect Location for the ArenaBowl

Born and raised in Chicago, it should be no surprise where Brittanie would like the AFL’s ArenaBowl to be held. See, Brittanie is the Adrenaline Rush Dancers’ (who entertain during Chicago Rush games at Allstate Arena) representative on the Dream Team of 18 dancers that will perform at the ArenaBowl this year. When asked, if not Chicago, what AFL cities would Brittanie like to visit for the ArenaBowl, she responded, “Hands down, I want it in Chicago. There really is nowhere else I would rather be than my hometown. I’d love for my team and family there to support me out there, and best of all, Chicago’s fans are the best; they would definitely be on their feet cheering the entire game. With that all in mind, I can’t even think of a better place to have the Arena Bowl!”

Well, the Rush still have a chance, one of four teams left in the AFL playoffs, so maybe Brittanie will be able to be a “stay at home” dancer, although Phoenix, Jacksonville, and Atlanta would all be nice places for her all-star appearance.

The Dream Team was selected by on-line voting, with two members of each cheer squad on the ballot. Brittanie found out she was a candidate when, “My coach had pulled me aside one practice and told me about the great news, and honestly I was at a loss for words. I know that sounds corny but in a dancer’s eyes this is a huge accomplishment. It was rough going against my fellow teammate since we all are so close, like sisters. However to just be nominated for something like this is amazing, so even if I wasn’t picked I’d still feel honored!“

Brittanie (left) during the July 23rd home game

As we also learned from about her ARD coach, Gloria Esposito, Brittanie was a bit shy when she was young, but dancing helped her show her true spirit. “I was actually very quiet and shy growing up, but when I was on the dance floor it was a whole different world,” explains Brittany. “I could take center stage without being shy at all, and I loved all eyes upon me. Thank you to my parents for starting me off in dance, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Brittanie is studying to be a teacher, and in the meantime works as a bartender, which can be quite an interesting study of human behavior. “Being a bartender has its ups and downs, as do all jobs,” says Brittanie. “I love it very much because I get to talk with people all day long, and meet new people every day! Bartending definitely helped me come out of my shell and really learn more about myself and others.”

Through work, Brittanie was encouraged to try out for the Adrenaline Rush Dancers. “It was my manager, Heather,” Brittanie recalls, now in her second season with the Rush. “She is the one who told me about Rush and encouraged me to tryout! Once I got there I was extremely intimidated by all of the talented girls.”

But now Brittanie is amongst the elite of those talented girls. There are some interesting notes about Brittanie in her biography Q & A on the Rush web site. One interesting on-line answer was,

Q: Five years ago I was? A: Learning how to drive…unsuccessfully

Hmm, please explain Brittanie. “Well, needless to say I am not the greatest driver; I hit curbs a lot and I am the WORST at parking,” Brittanie smiles. “My motto: ‘On the line is in the line.’”

Continue reading For Brittanie of the AFL’s Dream Team, Sweet Home Chicago is the Perfect Location for the ArenaBowl

Take a Glimpse Within the “Open Book” of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers Coach, Gloria Esposito

Pro cheerleading can launch someone on a path from extremely shy child, refusing to dance on stage, to shooting off machine guns with the troops in Kosovo. This has been part of the journey of Gloria Esposito, now the Coach/Choreographer of the AFL’s Adrenaline Rush Dancers, and a former NBA Luvabull and Adrenaline Rush Dancer herself. Cheer and dance have been so impactful, as Gloria says, “No one thought I would make (the squads) because they said I was shy, but I honestly think that because of the Luvabulls and the situations I had to deal with, I came out of my shell and am the person I am today.” Recently, the Adrenaline Rush Dancers took time to reflect on their own history with a ten year reunion during the last regular season game of the Chicago Rush, and Gloria also took time out to share with UltimateCheerleaders her story of going from reluctant dancer to leading an entire squad.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Gloria shares her last name with some notable Chicagoans, from news anchors to athletes, most noteworthy, the Chicago Blackhawks’ legendary goalie Tony Esposito. “No, I am not related to anyone famous, although I could use it to my advantage if I was that type of person,” Gloria shares, “Because everyone’s first question is ‘Are you related to Tony Esposito?’ Nope, I am not, but my dad does have a signed hockey stick!”

Gloria (right) as the ten-year reunion performance gets ready to hit it

Gloria’s dance career started with, well, not really a start at all. “Well, believe it or not, I was EXTREMELY shy growing up,” Gloria recalls. “I mean, we would visit family and I would hide behind my mom. She put me in dance class when I was six because my friend was doing it, and they thought it would help me. Well, it came to my first recital and everyone paid to come see me. I took one step out on stage, and turned around and would not go out there. So my mom said I could never do it again. Then in Junior High, I wanted to be on the pom squad for our junior football team in town, and she said no, the only way would be if my sister would do it with me. So I convinced her to do it and we did it for a few years. When I got into high school, I wanted to try out gymnastics did that for two years and found myself back on the pom squad my junior and senior year. I went to college and continued.”

With the goal of making the NBA’s Luvabulls one day, Gloria’s first venture into pro dance was trying out for Chicago Condors dance team of the ABA basketball league. “Well, I tried out for the Condors because I wasn’t 21 yet, and I knew the girls running it used to be on the Luvabulls so I thought I could use it as a networking experience,” says Gloria. “One of the girls who made the Condors had tried out for the Luvabulls numerous times and didn’t make it, so that made me double-think it, but I thought, nope, this is what I want. I am going to do it.” The Condors ended up folding less than a year later, so the dancing for the Bulls was the obvious next step.

“I tried out for the Luvabulls because it was something I always wanted, and seeing them when the Bulls were winning made me want to do it even more,” recalls Gloria. “So when tryouts came around, I signed up, and on the first day I was nervous, and I am not someone who gets nervous. I do remember being one of the first girls there that day, and meeting four of my future best friends that morning! None of us knew each other, or knew if we would make it, but we clicked. We went through the audition process, and on that last day, we saw the five of us standing there together, looking shocked that we all just made the new team! To this day we are all still friends!”
Continue reading Take a Glimpse Within the “Open Book” of the Adrenaline Rush Dancers Coach, Gloria Esposito

Orlando Predators Prowlers Gizelle

We mentioned earlier that Orlando Predators Prowler Gizelle is representing her squad on the Arena Bowl XXIV Dream Team. She's also just made the Orlando Magic Dancers. Congratulations Gizelle!

We mentioned earlier that Orlando Predators Prowler Gizelle is representing her squad on the Arena Bowl XXIV Dream Team. She's also just made the Orlando Magic Dancers. Congratulations Gizelle!

The Adrenaline Rush Dancers’ Reunion Celebrates a Decade of Cheer

Neither searing heat nor flood producing rains could prevent the ten-year reunion of over fifty Adrenaline Rush Dancers. The ARD have been part of the entertainment at AFL Chicago Rush games since 2001, and their current Director Gloria Esposito celebrated the event with a ten-year reunion featuring a halftime performance and the participation of the alumni in the game break entertainment. The July 23rd game against Milwaukee was also Adrenaline Rush Dancer poster night.

Outside the Allstate Arena, the combination of heat and sudden rains left some roads impassable and about 70% of the traffic lights were not functioning. The Chicago Tribune’s front page headline read, “Sweltering heat, then rain. Repeat.” But inside the Arena, the current and former ARD were focused on performance and reuniting. When asked if the returning alumni would be more or less nervous than during their days on the squad, Gloria speculated that they might be more nervous performing for the reunion, since some had not danced in this type of setting since 2001.

Gloria performs at halftime

But prior to halftime, alumni Wynne (in the red ball) and Dee (in the blue ball) participated in the “Hamster Ball” race. Wynne was also an NBA dancer and captain in both Chicago (four years) and Milwaukee (one year), and now is the director of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew and the IFL Chicago Slaughter Dancers, and Dee also danced for the Luvabulls. Wynne jumped out to a big lead, and in Tortoise and Hare fashion, became a little cocky, running backwards in the hamster ball. But with mascots and event staff around, Wynne was blocked in her tracks and Dee caught up. Mascot Grabowski then gave Dee a little hold back, which gave Wynne a small lead to plunge to victory at the goal line.

Continue reading The Adrenaline Rush Dancers’ Reunion Celebrates a Decade of Cheer

Despite a Reduction in Standing Room, the Georgia Force Cheerleaders Wow a Sold Out Arena

On July 9th, bright sun shone on the message board at the entrance to the complex that contains the Gwinnett Arena, in Duluth, Georgia, just northeast of Atlanta. The message board reported something that had been posted on the Georgia Force website in the days prior, that the Arena Football League game against the Chicago Rush that night was sold out.

This added some extra excitement as the Georgia Force Cheerleaders prepared for the game, but also some unexpected changes to their normal game routine. For one thing, extra seating was added to the area behind the end zone, where the GFC normally perform throughout the game. But the reduction in floor space of this area created issues for the squad. Before they proceeded to greet the fans when gates were opened, GFC Director Joie Ashworth and the squad took a look at the reduction in space. Eventually, it was decided to mostly feature half of the squad on the field rather than the entire squad. Also the squad needed to be extra alert of the game action getting a little too close due to the confined space.

Before the gates open, Director Joie (left) and the squad discuss the impact of less space

As the ushers waited to open the doors an hour before kickoff, the Cheerleaders lined up at each door, but on this night, it was the length of the lines of fans waiting to enter was uniquely long. Britney could not believe how many people were there so early, and she felt, “A little nervous,” Britney smiles, “But I am excited.” Britney thought the opportunity to be in front of the noise and enthusiasm of the big crowd would bring out the best in the Cheerleaders performances.

As the Cheerleaders greeted guests, and throughout the game, dedicated GFC photographer Art Morrison captured images (his game by game photos are featured on The GFC have developed their portrait posing skills working with Art, and love to take a look at his photos on his camera’s LCD.

The amazing thing about the GFC is that they are ALL such exceptional, achievement oriented women, in addition to Kiley, Kim, and Britney, who have been highlighted in recent interviews. Check out the captions in the following photos to learn about their off the field endeavors:

Bridget (left) loves sports, blogging, and fiction, and is studying to be an English teacher

Chelsea (left) is studying to be a math and science teacher

Dana (right) has a Master's degree in accountancy, and is an accountant/auditor

Continue reading Despite a Reduction in Standing Room, the Georgia Force Cheerleaders Wow a Sold Out Arena

Soulmates Salute the Military

Two weeks ago the Philadelphia Soulmates traveled back to the 40s for Salute the Military night. See all the photos here.

Through Dance and Mentoring, GFC Director Joie Ashworth Finds the Joy Of Living

Recently, UltimateCheerleaders featured interviews with three members of the Georgia Force Cheerleaders, all exceptional women in their chosen fields and as performers. And the remaining members of the squad are no different, and between them all, they cover an amazing range of careers and achievements. So it is no surprise that these characteristics are also personified by their Director, Joie Ashworth.

Multi-faceted Joie’s path to Director of the Arena Football League’s talented GFC squad included an extensive dance history, including dancing for NBA, NFL, and AFL teams, and an impressive corporate resume, including being a Vice President. All of this began in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where Joie first started cheerleading and gymnastics during elementary school. Joie continued competitive cheerleading throughout high school and college, and discovered a love for physical fitness and nutrition along the way.

Joie’s professional dance career began with the Washington Bullets NBA Dance Team in 1993, where she danced for two seasons. After moving to Atlanta, Joie became a member of the AFL’s Georgia Force Cheerleaders for six seasons, two of which she served as line captain. Joie had the privilege of being selected to perform at the 2008 Arena Bowl in New Orleans as a member of the Aaron’s AFL Dream Team. Joie is also a former Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader of three seasons, receiving such awards as “Teammate of the Year” and the team “Community Service” award. Outside of cheerleading, Joie has choreographed and performed in various concerts and themed shows in the Atlanta and Washington, DC metro areas.

Mentoring is a passion for Joie in all areas of her life, and she considers herself a lifelong youth mentor and dance enthusiast. In addition, Joie’s professional career led her to become a Vice President for a major financial institution. Over the course of 15 years with the company, she developed and mentored several young men and women. Today, she continues her role as mentor by serving as the Director of the Georgia Force Cheerleaders. She is also a small business owner and a regular volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Joie is a graduate of The University of Maryland College Park where she obtained a B.S. in Marketing.

Joie graciously agreed to share her insights and history with Tell us about your progression from childhood to pro cheerleading.

Joie: I grew up a painfully shy kid in Maryland who couldn’t sit still. My only release was to dance and sing in the family room for my parents with the fireplace hearth as my stage and my brother’s Legos as my ‘mike.’ I knew I had to break out of my shyness, so cheerleading became the answer to that problem. You see, as a cheerleader on a team, I could dance and scream because I was supposed to and I was not the only one! Perfect! I cheered in middle school, high school and college, and cheerleading was pretty much my life. It was so important to me to do well in cheerleading that I taught myself how to do back hand springs and other gymnastic stunts.

I heard an ad for Washington Bullets dance team tryouts on the radio, so I decided to give it a shot. I had to be brave and do something I wouldn’t normally do. All these years I had challenged myself to get outside of my comfort zone and see how far it would take me. That bravery paid off and I made the team. That also landed me a gig at Six Flags singing, acting, and dancing in a Sixties sock hop revue; yes, I was on a REAL stage! My fireplace hearth rehearsals paid off too!

After two years dancing with the Bullets (now the Washington Wizards), I was ready to graduate college and test my bravery again by moving to a new city. I landed a job as a Vice President at a major financial institution and set my sights on Atlanta. I chose Atlanta because of the youth of the city and the opportunity to buy cheap real estate. After settling in I began to ‘gig’ around town, dancing for various recording artists and meeting great people in the process. I heard about the Georgia Force and thought it might be right up my alley; I was right. I made the team and loved every minute of my six years on the team. For the last two years of my Force career, I danced for the Atlanta Falcons simultaneously. There were several Georgia Force Cheerleaders (GFCs) that cheered for the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders as well. Therefore, we rehearsed Monday and Wednesday for the Force, Tuesday and Thursday for the Falcons, and we still had Force games on the weekends. My final year as a GFC, I was blessed to be chosen as the Dream Team representative for the Force at Arena Bowl. Therefore, I also had to learn all of the material from a DVD. I’m not sure how I did all of that, but I was addicted to dancing and I loved it! If the AFL had not folded after 2008, I’m not sure I would have quit dancing for the Force. But it did, and life goes on. I still had the Falcons. I danced for the AFC for one final AMAZING year and I quit while I was ahead. I had danced for eleven amazing seasons in the NBA, AFL and NFL and I have no regrets. What do you remember about those first tryouts with the Bullets Dance Team? Did you have any idea you would still be part of pro cheer/dance years into the future?

Joie: I couldn’t believe I made the team my first try! I didn’t know what to expect so I just did what I had been doing throughout high school and college. I was a little embarrassed because I was such a cheerleader! The other girls had studio dance training and I had none. So I had to quickly adapt and gave it my best shot. The only thing I remember clearly is the smile on the face of who turned out to be the President of Washington Sports; she came up to me after my audition and told me I did a great job. That actually made me feel welcome and when they called my name, I felt this was the beginning of something big in my life. Professional cheerleading was not something I intended to be a part of, but I’ve never felt more at home than when I’m with my teammates, all doing what we love. What are you most memorable moments in your years cheering for the Bullets, Force, and Falcons; any moments when you were a little TOO close to the action?

Joie: If you cheer or dance long enough, you will come a little TOO close to the action! I was tumbling during an NBA time out to my favorite song – YMCA! I stepped out of my tumbling pass at the end of the court and didn’t see the photographer sitting cross legged under the basket. I plopped right down into his lap and he looked at me and said, “Hi there!” I was mortified, especially since it made the highlight reel that night.
Continue reading Through Dance and Mentoring, GFC Director Joie Ashworth Finds the Joy Of Living