Raiderette Travel Diary: Japan

Raiderette Cole’s Visit to Japan
February 24, 2009
Raiders.com

* Video interview with Raiderette Cole *

Recently, veteran Raiderette Cole had the opportunity, along with seven other NFL cheerleaders, to visit Japan and work with NFL Japan on several initiatives and awareness campaigns with regard to NFL football. Cole took time out to chronicle her experiences. Also, Raiders.com’s Jeanette Thompson had a chance to sit down with Cole for a one-on-one video interview upon Cole’s return from Japan.

By Raiderette Cole

This is my very first time traveling to Japan, and I am so honored to be representing the NFL, and the Oakland Raiders on this tour. Thank you for inviting me to share my experience with the Raider Nation.

I met with all the team representatives that will be participating in the tour, and Maria Giannini, the director of E2k entertainment production company, at San Francisco International Airport. The ladies I went on tour with included Lauren – San Francisco 49ers; Lindsay – New England Patriots; Melanie – Seattle Seahawks; Fabiola – Miami Dolphins; Kazuyo – NY Jets; Marisa – San Diego Chargers; and Lauren – Philadelphia Eagles. Lauren, from the Eagles however, arrived later than the rest of us due to the playoffs.

I was very fortunate to sit next to such a great couple on my flight over to Japan. Americans Mary and Mark have lived in Japan for over 25 years. They were so generous to share details about the Japanese culture. They explained the currency, or the “yen” rather. I’ve never seen such a more beautiful currency than the Yen.

The 13-hour flight flew by because I was in such great company. We deplaned, hopped on a charter bus and headed to our hotel, The New Otani, which is gorgeous! We checked into our rooms and walked to a nearby local restaurant to eat our first Japanese-style meal. We had to take off our shoes to enter, and they gave us lockers to store our things. Kazuio, with the Jets, is originally from Tokyo, Japan. So she is very familiar with the area and more importantly she was able to communicate for all of us because she speaks fluent Japanese. We are all so grateful she is here because she is teaching us so much. We couldn’t have asked for better hands-on education. We have such a busy agenda coming up, so we went back to our rooms to get some sleep.

Day 1:
We all met at the top of The New Otani Tower for breakfast, and a kick off meeting with the team from NFL Japan. We learned, in more detail, about what is to be expected of us on this trip and the messages they really want us to communicate to gain a larger fan base here in Japan. Basically our mission was to communicate in our interviews key points about NFL football as if we were explaining the sport to someone for the very first time. We are introducing the sport and motivating them to tune in [to NFL football].

After our meeting we went straight to the studio and got to work. I led the team through a group stretch and then we practiced three sideline routines together. We had already learned the material via DVD prior to our departure. So when we got together it was basically cleaning the routines, formations, and just learning to dance together, as we all come from different teams, with different styles. Everyone was so professional, and prepared that practice went by quickly. We broke for lunch and then traveled by subway into the city where we were able to explore and sightsee a bit. When we returned to the hotel Lauren from the Eagles had arrived. She was my roommate for the remainder of the trip. We all went to Trader Vics for dinner, and quickly got ready for our first performance together. “Sporto” is the highest rated sports program on Fuji TV. It was a LIVE appearance, and it airs at midnight, which seems late for the most popular sports show, and is really late for us because we are still adjusting to the time difference, and have jet lag. However we managed to put on a great show, which consisted of one dance performance to Christina Aguilera’s “Keeps getting Better,” and an interview session with us as a group. We got back to the hotel around 1:00 a.m. to get some sleep.

Day 2:
Up at 6:30 a.m., and at 8 a.m. we had a quick group breakfast at the hotel then we got on our official NFL Japan Tour bus. We headed to the “Star Maker Studios” in Shiba, for a photo shoot. This was an extra special shoot because we were all posing in our team identified uniforms together for our “Team Photo Card.” This photo card will be used to sign autographs, and is given to the fans at our appearances.

Immediately after the shoot we went back to the hotel to practice. From practice we went to the Yokota Air Base. At this appearance we had to perform our solo introduction, all three sideline dance routines, and a trivia session with the audience. Each cheerleader made up two questions to ask the audience, one question was to be a difficult question, and the second to be easy. My difficult trivia question was a historical one, what is the name of the first Raider player ever to be inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame? Answer, my favorite, Jim Otto. My easy trivia question was who is the owner of The Oakland Raiders? Answer, Al Davis, of course (too easy). We then followed up this event with an autograph session and photo session. Then we went back to the hotel to change and we went to Zen in Roppongi for an amazing sushi dinner.

Day 3:
022409 Cole performs with NFL cheerleadersUp at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. group breakfast at the New Otani, immediately followed by a dance rehearsal for about an hour. Then we loaded up our tour bus and headed to Venus Fort, Odaiba for the event I have been looking forward to most, The NFL Cheer Challenge 2009. This event was such a special event because the Japanese dance teams were to compete, and we were to judge the competition. Over 200 fans showed up for this event. The competition consisted of teams with ages that range from 4 to 19. The performances were amazing, high energy, and great choreography, and technique. I especially enjoyed the younger girls, they were so cute, and we all were so impressed with how they managed to retain all the material for their dance routines. There were two awards given out, and the competition was fierce. We then performed with Q and A session and interview to follow.

Then we walked back to Fuji TV for “Mezamashi,” another TV appearance, this a morning show. We were all interviewed regarding our experience in Japan, our experience as NFL cheerleaders, and of course the Super Bowl. From there we went NTV which stands for Nittelle Television. NTV is the #1 watch network in Japan. The program we were on is “Urugusa” which is the #1 sports program in Japan, and we performed again LIVE at midnight. On this show we performed “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga, followed by an interview. This was a long, fun and productive day.

Day 4:
022409 Cole performs on Japanese TVOur first event was a viewing party at a western-style restaurant, where we mingled with the 100 plus fans that showed, signed autographs on our photo cards, and met with the executives for Coors Light Japan. This event ended with follow up interview for a behind-the-scenes segment they will be using for NFL Japan.com.

After this event we freshened up and went to Dentsu, Japan’s #1 Advertising Agency. This was not on our original Itinerary, this was an added special meeting because of all our exposure, the Dentsu executives invited us for a round-table meeting, Very intense. We introduced ourselves, answered questions regarding our respective teams, the Super Bowl, and our experience in Japan. This was a very exciting meeting, intense, but exciting because Dentsu is a very powerful company and can give NFL Japan top exposure.

After our meeting we walked to NTV studios for another LIVE performance on “Real Time.” Then we went to the TV shooting of “NFL Club.” We filmed this segment on location at “Ukaitei” restaurant. The setting was a traditional Japanese-style dinning and featured real authentic Japanese cuisine. We were to eat and enjoy the meal that is prepared for us, as we are being interviewed as guests on the show. Rather unusual setting, however delicious and fun. Nachi Abe joined us as a surprise guest. He is an ex-NFL football player with experience with NFL Europa and is now in broadcasting in Japan.

Then we went back to NTV studios for our usual midnight LIVE appearance but this time on “News Zero.” Were we a featured on the sports corner of the program. We performed our solo routines, followed by interviews. Then we went right back to the hotel to rest a bit before our next appearance.

Day 5:
022409 Cole and cheerleaders gets ready for video shootUp at 4:00 a.m., call time 5 a.m. We headed back to NTV studios for an early morning show called “Zoom-In Super.” This show is equal to “Good Morning America” in the United States.

IT WAS FREEZING! They had us perform outside. They gave us huge down jackets and coffee to stay warm. We took our coats off literally seconds before our performance. Immediately after our performances the hosts of the show interviewed us as we shivered in our uniforms. At least I have sleeves, if you watch the clip Fabiola from Miami is shivering uncontrollably. We then wrapped up the show, joining the hosts say their famous catch phrase, “Zoom-In”

We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit, because we only had three hours sleep the night before. After resting we jumped on our tour bus, with our NFL entourage and went to Asakusa, Harajuku for some sightseeing and shopping on the Takeshita Dori street. This is where we were able to get our friends, family, and teammates souvenir gifts. We visited the Temple, and were blessed by the smoke with health, wealth and happiness.

Later that day we arrived in Shibuya for a quick dance rehearsal, and changed for our next performance, which was actually my favorite performance of our tour. This event was called “The NFL Night Special.” This was a talk show/ performance/ Super Bowl trivia/ Live event. The venue had a nightclub feel with great lighting, and was sold out with a capacity of 200. We performed all three dance routines. We had a Q and A segment. Then the award-winning dancers form the Cheer Challenge performed. We did a raffle drawing for prizes (team autographed footballs and t-shirts). Then we had our challenge, The Super Bowl Trivia Challenge. Audience members were selected at random to form a team and they were to compete with us! It was a close match. However they won by only one point, they were very knowledgeable. We ended this event with a photo session. After the event we shot a quick commercial teaser for “Sporto Ladies Day.” Then we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo, for well-deserved American-style burgers!

Day 6:
022409 Cole in JapanUp at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. group breakfast. It was starting to sink in that our trip was coming to an end. We all started to get a little sad because this was our final day, and final performance. We got on our tour bus and went to J-POP cafe in Shibuya. The TV shooting for NHK’s “Best Sports” show. We performed one final dance routine, to “Keeps Getting Better,” which was so fitting because we had all gotten better, and each of us had grown so much from this experience. From traveling to Japan, to celebrating our NFL, to sharing what we are a part of in our individual organizations, and celebrating our communities. It made me feel so proud to be an NFL cheerleader, and justified my role as a role model within our community and as an ambassador for our organization.

That evening we had a farewell dinner at the famous restaurant Nobo. NFL Japan presented us with a very special necklace which I found to be so generous and thoughtful. If there is one thing I could expose to you all about the Japanese culture, it is that the people are so polite, kind, and generous. We went out that evening and explored the night club scene in Tokyo. Interestingly enough, they all play American music!

Day 7:
We said our goodbye’s to the NFL Japan crew, which took such great care of us. We exchanged email addresses and contact information with all the members of the tour, and I slept the entire plane ride home.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Oakland Raiders, Karen Kovac, Maria Giannini, E2k entertainment, Jiro San, NFL Japan, and the NFL for this opportunity. I feel so blessed to be able to live out my dream of being an NFL cheerleader. This is an experience I will cherish because it validated my purpose in this great sport we are all so passionate about, and my contribution as an ambassador for our organization.

Many Cheers!
Cole

Heat dancer gets first look at Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread

By Madeleine Marr
The Miami Herald
02.16.09

Ashley Allen caused a scene at her local Barnes & Noble in Boca Raton on Thursday. That’s when the rookie Miami Heat dancer, 20, got her first look at her spread in the 2009 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

”I was jumping up and down with my mother,” Allen said Friday on her way to Disney World. “She is so proud — she knows how hard I’ve worked to get here. And to be chosen as a rookie, wow!”

Last fall, after SI selected Allen — who sent the magazine a picture of herself in a skimpy training outfit — she and nine other NBA dancers were flown to New York for the one-day shoot. They posed at a downtown pier from 8 in the morning till 8 at night.

Though Allen, a double-major in communications and business at Florida Atlantic University, is thrilled, she realizes now the pressure is on to look good.

”I’ve got to continue watching my eating habits and training really hard,” Allen says, adding, “Our outfits are a little bit revealing.”

Also, such international exposure can be career-altering: the issue’s cover gal, Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend Bar Refaeli, is really on the map now.

”I’m still trying to process it all,” Allen says. “I haven’t gotten used to the idea.”

Are the other Heat dancers just a little bit jealous?

“Not at all. They know everyone has their moment in time to shine.”

Eagles seek new cheerleaders

By Peter Mucha, Staff Writer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Feb. 17, 2009

[Last] weekend’s combine isn’t the only talent search gearing up in the NFL.

During the next nine weeks, the Eagles will host a series of events to restock their cheerleading squad.

Every year, about 15 rookies earn spots, along with about two dozen returning vets.

“We have a really busy couple of months planned,” said Barbara Zaun, director of cheerleading.

And that’s not including late April’s NFL draft party, the yearly May calendar shoot, or the July visit by six cheerleaders to Iraq to entertain troops.

Regular Eagles fans should know that only two of these events are open to the public, the draft party and the April 21 cheerleader audition finals.

This year, the finale will be at a smaller venue, the Prince Music Theater in Center City. So the tickets – $22.50 each – are likely to disappear quickly when they go on sale later this month, Zaun said.

Here are the dates that rah-rah wannabes, who must be 18 and a high school graduate, will want to know:

Pre-Audition Workshop, Feb. 25. Optional event at Lincoln Financial Field. Experts, including team choreographer Suzy Zucker, will advise about dancing, hair and makeup, and health and fitness. Includes mock tryout, plus question-and-answer session with current cheerleaders. No judging. Cost is $45.

Open Call Tryouts, March 28. Lincoln Financial Field. Required for would-be rookies. Hundreds of women learn a dance routine, then take turns performing in groups of five before two panels of judges.

Audition Semifinals, March 30 and April 1: About 130 invitees, including squad members seeking to return, will be given a dance routine to learn at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. The following day, they’ll perform in groups of three, and talk with judges about themselves.

Audition Finals, April 21: Sixty finalists will compete in a variety of categories, including dance, fitness and beauty at Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St.

Next week’s workshop will be limited to 250 contestants, who will automatically be registered for the open-call auditions, Zaun said.

The workshop helps women who might be worried about their confidence, and can improve prospects’ chances, Zaun said. They get how-to tips on everything from fitness (“to firm up your abs, exactly”) to beauty (“to help them understand the glamorous aspect of being an Eagles cheerleader”) to proper nutrition.

Improve your diet, she said, and “your body’s going to look much better in just a month’s time.”

For sign-up information, go to www.philadelphiaeagles.com and click “Cheerleaders.”

Once the squad is set, following the finals, members quickly prepare for the new squad’s debut at the annual draft day party.

Then comes the calendar shoot.

“We are looking for a tropical destination again, and most likely it would early to mid May,” Zaun said.

The cheerleaders, who are paid an hourly rate, make $400 to $1,000 a month and usually hold other jobs.

Pats Cheerleader’s Pro Bowl Journal

Patriots.com
2/24/09

New England Patriots cheerleader Alyssa was the 2009 Patriots Pro Bowl cheerleader. Read her journal from the 2009 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.

View Pro Bowl Photos >>

Hey Pats Fans!

I can’t believe we’re closing on a year since I last posted; what a whirlwind it’s been! I bet you think we are off vacationing since our beloved team did not make the playoffs (despite an incredible year), but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In addition to preparing for the auditions for next season, many of us have been traveling around the world to visit fans near and far.

I was personally blessed with the opportunity to represent the Pats Cheerleaders at the 2009 Pro Bowl at the beginning of this month. Pat Patriot, our team mascot, was also chosen to participate!

While this might sound like a vacation, there was actually so much to do in preparation. Immediately after arriving in beautiful Honolulu, 26 girls from across the league and approximately 10 mascots, met and began practices and promotions with the goal of performing as a team! It was clear that everyone “did their homework”, and we pulled it off quite well (if I say so myself).

For those of you that haven’t been to Hawaii, let me just say it is truly a paradise. This was my first trip there and I absolutely cannot wait to go back. Pat Patriot has actually been to the Pro Bowl four times, so he’s an old pro!! As this was also the last year that the ProBowl will take place in Hawaii, the people of Honolulu rolled out the red carpet for each of us. I hope to bring a little of this “Aloha Spirit” back to chilly Boston!

The week was jam packed with events, from visits to the Children’s Hospital and Schofield Barracks, to the Pro Bowl Block Party on Kalakaua Avenue at Waikiki Beach. One of my favorite events was Ohana (family) day, at Aloha stadium.

The Saturday before the big game families are invited to the stadium to watch the AFC and NFC teams practice, and there are tons of fun events for everyone. We got to perform, sign autographs for fans, and I even got to catch a pass from Kurt Warner! So cool!

Before I could blink it seemed like our trip had ended, but I knew I had so much more to look forward to. Though it was sad to part with my 25 new friends I was also excited to get home to see my teammates. I slept the entire flight home and arrived just early enough to attend our regular weekly practice! After catching up with everyone and running through some routines it was time for me to head home to…. REPACK?!?!

Be sure to visit the next link, where I will tell you all about our 2009 South America Armed Forces Entertainment Tour!!

Cheers,
Alyssa

Tips for hopeful 2009 Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader contestants

Get Your Eagle On!
Tips for hopeful 2009 Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader contestants

By Alyssa D’Egidio
NBCPhiladelphia.com
Feb 25, 2009

BCPhiladelphia.com intern, Alyssa D’Egidio, cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles during the 06′ and 07′ season. She will be providing tips for contestants on how to nail this year’s audition.

It has been almost three years since I had my first audition for the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleading Squad. Although a few years ago, memories of my first audition are still fresh in my mind as I think about stepping into the crowded room at Lincoln Financial Field.

For anyone who is planning to audition, this is the most intimidating part. Sprawled across the upper level of the stadium awaits nearly 500 girls who are primping, stretching and practicing dance moves while waiting to learn the routine. Seeing this will most likely raise your blood pressure but it is important to stay calm and rely on all the preparation you’ve put in prior to the open call.

As far as preparation goes, the most important thing to concentrate on is physical fitness and dance ability. At the open call audition contestants will be put into groups and walk into a room with a long table of judges. At this point, the judges are focusing on two main things: fitness and dance ability.

Focus: Fitness

With just a few weeks left until the March 28th auditions, it is important to start sculpting and toning your body. The judges are looking for toned stomachs, arms and legs. One thing they are not looking for is stick thin women. It is important to look healthy but fit.

Stephen Williamson, a trainer and owner of Body Blast at Weston Fitness has a few helpful tips for perfecting physiques in a short period of time.

“I think women trying out for the team are going to want to look aesthetically pleasing. The girls need to be able to move which is why an integration of strength training, plyometrics and cardio will be best for these women,” Stephen said.

Let’s break down what each of these consist of and how many times a week they should be done:

Strength Training is important for being able to push your own body weight. Exercises to do include lunges, leg presses and calf extensions. For toned arms and back muscles, push ups are great.

Cardio is also good for keeping your lungs in good condition. “Cheerleaders don’t need to run marathons therefore a combination of sprints and jogging at a pace will keep their lungs in good shape for their dance routines,” Stephen said.

Lastly, plyometric training is used for speed and agility. This training helps the neuromuscular system for quick steps and foot moves. This is great for dancing and picking up choreography quickly.

Stephen suggests doing a combination of these three. “A full body routine twice a week which is made up of half strength training and half plyometrics should do the trick,” Stephen said. “Cardio should be done two or three times a week for 20-30 minutes.”

Diet is also an important part of a cheerleader’s life, so sticking to a high fiber diet will help keep the pounds off. “Taking in a diet of 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates and 20 percent fat will energize the body and keep it slim,” Stephen said.

Focus: Dance

Once your physique is at its peek, the next goal is to get your dance moves down. At the audition, a short choreography routine will be taught, which contestants have about 20 minutes to learn and an hour to perfect. Obviously contestants can’t practice the dance until the day of the audition, but there are some ways to help make this part a lot easier.

Many college campus gyms offer dance classes from hip-hop to ballet. College students who are auditioning should try to go to at least three dance classes a week prior to the auditions. I did before I auditioned and it really helped me pick up the choreography much quicker. Try taking a hip hop or jazz class which is more the choreography style of the Eagles Cheerleading Squad.

Not a college student? Well, many dance classes are offered in the city and surrounding areas.

Society Hill Dance Academy and Koresh School of Dance in center city offer hip-hop classes for $15 to $20. Classes focus on cardio, movement training and choreography.

The Dancers Studio on Passyunk Avenue offers an hour long Wednesday night jazz/hip-hop class at 6:30 pm. A four-week session costs $15 and will give contestants four paid classes to work on their dance techniques. Call 215-271-6277 for more information.

If you are not sure what kind of dancing the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders do, then it would be helpful to watch last year’s Final Audition Webcast on the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders web site. Before I auditioned, I watched the previous year’s webcast which helped me get a feel for the style of dance the squad does.