Dancing in the NBA…and the NFL
by Mike Trudell
Los Angeles Lakers
January 24, 2016
What’s the difference between dancing for an NBA team, and cheering for an NFL squad?
Well, Nick Young doesn’t really know, but that didn’t stop him from speculating extensively and randomly on the topic!
To balance things out with some actual insight, we enlisted first year Laker Girl Lauren, who used to cheer for the New Orleans Saints.
Below is a transcription of separate interviews with Swaggy P and Lauren:
Q: How does the audition process compare for NBA team vs. NFL teams?
Swaggy: I think they all find fliers and stuff on Instagram and Twitter to find out. It’s probably harder to be a Laker Girl because there’s more variety in L.A. and it’s a different stage. There are just more ladies, you know what I’m saying!
Lauren: The auditions were actually very similar, I must say, with some slight differences. There were a lot more girls auditioning for the Lakers Girls, which made it more competitive. With the Saints, it was a little longer of a process, lasting a full week, but it still had the preliminary round, with cuts through the day. We had to take a football test to make sure we knew the game, including naming all 32 teams. I did get all of them (after studying), but I’d known nothing about football before I cheered for the Saints. That did make me gain a love for it.
Q: How did you find out you made both teams?
Swaggy: I always wanted them to put it up on a sign, and be able to see my name on a list somewhere. Probably outside the arena on a wall or something. You know?
Lauren: One sweet touch with the Lakers that was nice is that (Lakers Director, Game Operations and Entertainment) Lisa (Estrada) calls each girl individually to let them know if they made the team or not. I was at the beach at the time – because that’s my happy place – just hoping for the best. Lisa called, and she thanked me for my time and coming out and told me she had a position for me. I was very, very happy. The Saints posted it online. I was in school at the time, in class, refreshing the Saints website until I found out. I think I got a text from my dad letting me know that they’d updated it and I’d made it.
Q: Is there a difference between dancing and cheering?
Swaggy: Yes. Big difference. With cheering they have the permanent smile. It’s more nice. Make me happy, make you all happy. Dancing sometimes you just get your groove on. I can dance. I’m kinda like Michael Jackson. I’m the king of the dancing video games, actually. I’m good.
Lauren: They’re both dance teams that require technical training. I was a cheerleader in high school, where you have the tumbling and stunting and all that. We don’t do that here, where it’s more high-energy routines. One thing that’s completely different about the NFL is dancing with pom poms. I’m had to get used to my hand placement here with the Lakers, because you don’t think about it like that (with pom poms). The pom poms probably made us look more like cheerleaders, but since there are so many people in the dome, it was a visual for people especially sitting up high. But yes, you have choreographed routines for both the NFL and the NBA, though we dance more with the Lakers.
Q: What is the game day experience like in the respective sports?
Swaggy: They probably listen to some crunk music to get fired up to dance. But for cheering maybe it’s make up and hair first. But the dancers may have to get more, like, ready for game day. But the Laker Girls are also classy. They’re doing their thing!
Lauren: It’s a much longer season in the NBA, and a lot smaller of a team. There are 22 of us Laker Girls, and we had 36 on the Saints, which made it really, really different. I know when I first made the Lakers, it felt so much smaller and more close knit. You’re able to build relationships a little easier, being that it’s a smaller team. You get to know every girl on the team. Game day experience wise, Staples Center is also smaller and more intimate than the Superdome, because you’re much closer. In the Superdome, we were standing far away from the fans, and I could barely make out any faces in the crowd.
Q: Why did you want to become a Laker Girl?
Swaggy: (Editor’s note: Swag was not asked this question, but his response probably would have been: “I’m not a Laker Girl tho.”)
Lauren: I always wanted to move to L.A. and audition for the Laker Girls, and (current Laker Girl) Karla and I used to dance together in Atlanta, and I reached out to her and asked her about it. She told me about her experience, and it just seemed like a really good fit for me. There can be an image tied to a lot of professional teams, and it can be hard to find a team with class. There are very few teams I’d actually go out for, and the Saints and Lakers are two of them. There is something very traditional about the Laker Girls that hasn’t changed, and it’s very refreshing to have that class, and have girls that are so smart. All these girls are very driven and very smart with lives outside of this.* You’d be amazed: these girls have substance. I’m probably going to do it until I can’t do it anymore, because I love it and you only live once. *Lauren is an entertainment coordinator for L.A. Fashion Week.
Q: How do the practices to get ready for games go?
Swaggy: I think there’s a difference … don’t the NFL cheerleaders have to practice on the field so maybe they need cleats? It’s kinda tough to dance in cleats, so, yeah. But the NBA can be in the gym … but also, they probably practice more hours and they have more games.
Lauren: It’s very similar, as we actually practiced Tuesday and Thursday in New Orleans, and Tuesday and Thursday for the Lakers if we don’t have a game. They last around the same amount of time.
Q: What athletes are more impressive?
Swaggy: Basketball players obviously. You really have to be an athlete … football you just have to get buff and run. I think it’s harder to be in the NBA than the NFL … but I like people to see me. Faces out! In football, you’re covered by a helmet.
Lauren: Now that I’m getting more comfortable I’m able to watch a bit more of the action. In my first few games, I was thinking more about the next routine: the formation, the counts and everything. I was a nervous wreck my first few games. But now I’m able to actually watch and relax and enjoy it more.
Q: Difference in the fans?
Swaggy: Well, L.A. is L.A. They’re the best, obviously. I don’t know the Saints fans or NFL fans as much.
Lauren: The fans are equally as loyal. Lakers fans are great, and they really get into the game. If there’s a little girl, I can actually make eye contact with her and wave, and that’s a special kind of interaction that you don’t get as much in football.