The Science Cheerleader

By DeliaTheArtist
for Current.com

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In 1991, Darlene Cavalier was a professional cheerleader for the 76ers. Today however, she’s cheering for a different team – Citizen Science!

“Citizen Scientists aren’t waiting for an invitation to get involved. They are literally changing the way science gets done,” Darlene says. Her website, ScienceCheerleader.com, is a wealth of information as well as THE resource for anyone who wants to get more involved with science efforts in their communities. “It’s important that the citizen scientists get something out of the project and for that to happen researchers must believe that the public is capable of more than just data entry. Volunteers should be given the opportunity to ask questions and draw upon the data. In its most successful forms, citizen scientists even help shape science policy.”

ScienceCheerleader.com’s Project Finder helps connect people with scientific projects in their area of interest. What are some examples of things people can do? “Tag butterflies to help track their migratory habits, count fireflies to help researchers better understand why they appear to be diminishing in some places but not others (talk about a fun family project; my kids and I learned how to differentiate between males, females and stealth predators!), sort through galaxies, help meteorologists predict weather patterns, record earthquakes, help project flu outbreaks, you name it!”

Darlene is also working on having more user generated content on her site as well as “a full-functioning Mother-of-all-Citizen-Science websites” – read my entire interview with Darlene Cavalier, The Science Cheerleader, in this awesome 4th installment of Science is Speaking! [Click here]

Laker Girls: One tough assignment

By Matt Calkins
The Press Enterprise
May 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES – In what form, I don’t know. From which religion, I couldn’t tell you.

And even though it might prompt letters, I’m gonna say this with firm conviction: There is a God.

Here’s an email from my boss last week to prove it.

Subject: Column idea

Matt,
(An editor) was browsing through the media guide and noticed there were two Laker Girls from Corona and Temecula. See what you can do.

I scrolled down thinking I might find Bill Gates’ pin number, too.

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The assignment was to interview Corona’s Richelle Rodriguez and Temecula’s Lindsey Tuer in hopes of better understanding what it’s like to be part of the NBA’s most famous dance team.

So last Thursday, before the Lakers met the Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, I trudged down to Staples Center ready to (cough) work.

Tuer actually had the night off, so my only face-to-face would be with Rodriguez, whom I’d arranged to speak with at 4:30 p.m. But alas, after waiting outside the Laker Girls dressing room for about 25 minutes, it was 4:40 and I still hadn’t seen her.

“Nobody’s walked out of there in the last 10 minutes, right?” I asked an usher.

“No,” he responded. “But if you need to talk to someone in there, just knock.”

Knock on the Laker Girls dressing-room door? I thought. Isn’t that something you win in a “Price is Right” showcase?

But I did so nonetheless, and was pointed down the hall to Laker Girl director, Lisa Estrada, the point of contact for all team members.

“Where would you like to do the interview?,” Estrada asked.

Um…my high school reunion? I thought.

“In the stands is fine,” I said.

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Now, if for some reason you’re ever asked to describe to a sketch artist what you think a Laker Girl might look like, you’ll end up with a portrait of Rodriguez. The 20-year-old is a Colgate, Noxema and Pantene Pro V commercial all rolled into one…yet still manages to come off a little shy.

Turns out dancing has long been the lubricant that’s helped Rodriguez wriggle out of her shell – not to mention a talent that earned her the title of Youngest Laker Girl when she made the team as an 18-year-old last year.

Right now she’s studying dance at Riverside Community College with aspirations of a career in make-up artistry.

Tuer, who I talked with over the phone, is a 23-year-old Temecula Valley High grad living in Huntington Beach. Now in her fourth year with the squad, she works as a bartender and song-leading coach at El Toro High, and hopes to make it in the entertainment industry.

After talking to each for about a half an hour, here’s what some of my extensive (this darn cough won’t go away) research revealed.

1. The Laker Girls are bright: Think mascara is the only three-syllable word they know? Not so much. Past squad members have included medical students, financial analysts, pharmaceutical reps and college professors. Granted… they might occasionally get one of these, but still.

2. The Laker Girls are big-hearted: In addition to the bi-weekly practices and 48 games per season, they attend three to five charitable functions per week, ranging anywhere from the Make-a-Wish Foundation to local volunteer projects. I believe they are also the leading cause of philanthropy in males 18-40.

3. The Laker Girls are brutal: Before each game, the ladies lock hands in a circle, shout something alliteratively sadistic toward the Lakers’ opponents and yell “huh!” Examples? “Nail the Nuggets!” “Bomb the Blazers!” “Slaughter the Suns!”

“You don’t say ‘Murder the Magic’, do you?” I asked Tuer.

“Probably,” she said with a laugh. “We’re pretty hardcore.”

The audition process is no less merciful. Only 22 of the 500-plus women who tried out made the team this season – and everyone has to re-audition each year.

Oh, and how do you know if you made the first cut? Easy. A judge didn’t walk by and snip your wristband off.

It should be pointed out that the Laker Girls are not allowed to fraternize with the players themselves.

I did, however, ask Lakers guard Sasha Vujajic if he’s ever been distracted by them during a game.

“Never,” he said.

Sounds about right.

First of all, getting to the NBA generally requires a healthy supply of focus. And second – the Laker Girls are actually one of the more conservatively dressed dance teams in the league.

“I always laugh when guys are afraid that taking a picture with us is going to get them in trouble with their wife or girlfriend,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re the Hooters girls.”

Hey boss, I got an idea for a follow-up.

Laker Girl Fitness Profile: Annika

How did you prepare for Laker Girls auditions this summer?

I stepped up my workout routine by doing extra cardio and really focusing on stretching, since flexibility is important at auditions. I also worked on increasing my stamina since the first day of auditions is a very long day and requires a lot of energy.

What other styles of dance do you do outside of Laker Girls rehearsals to maintain your skills?

I love taking hip hop and jazz classes, and I really need to get back into ballet too!

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Do you do anything outside of dance to stay fit (ie swimming, biking, etc.)?

I love doing cardio at the gym, and I also love hiking when I get a chance to go.

Take us through your typical workout. Do you use weights, cardio, flexibility exercises? If so, please describe.

I start out with 30-45 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machine. Right after that, I stretch because I like stretching when my muscles are still warm. From there, I move on to my favorite weights/resistance exercises–squats, lunges, sit-ups, and various exercises on the large exercise ball.

What do you eat to stay healthy/maintain energy?

I love having eggs with avocado, and fruit on the side for breakfast. It starts my day off right and gives me the energy I need to get going. My favorite lunch is a turkey sandwich or a fruit smoothie, and for dinner I love having a fresh piece of fish with asparagus and couscous! I love having original tart flavor frozen yogurt for dessert because it’s only about 90 calories per serving and absolutely delicious!

Talk about the importance of stretching, yoga or Pilates in your workout.

Stretching is absolutely essential as a dancer, and I love doing it because it is calming and relaxing for me. I love Pilates because it strengthens my core, which in turn makes me a sharper, stronger dancer. Yoga is extremely therapeutic and beneficial for me too. Its simplicity makes it great for beginners too.

How do you balance dancing vs. other fitness related activities?

I like to workout at the gym every other day (the days we do not have practice), so that I’m active everyday and I can alternate activities.

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Who made you aware of the importance of staying fit?

Honestly, I picked it up on my own when I was in college and realized I had gained about 8 of the Freshman 15. I’m pretty self-motivated because I like feeling fit and in good shape. But, I’m also inspired by the trainers at the gym because of their dedication to fitness.

What do you find a “nutritional snack” during the day? In addition, tell us about your favorite meal to eat that you find healthy for your lifestyle.

I love, love, love Fuji Apples–they are a sweet, nutritional snack and they fill me up just enough to hold me over between meals.

What advice would you give to Lakers fans about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

I would say to make diet and exercise equally important–they go hand in hand and both are necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Don’t jip yourself by only doing one or the other.

Do you have an everyday helpful, healthy tips for any of the Lakers Fans?

Drink lots of water!! It gives you energy and is so much better for you than soda and most other drinks. It also helps with portion control because it fills you up.

More Laker Girl fitness profiles, here.