The screaming fans. The noise and excitement of Foxboro Stadium. Cheering on the hometown New England Patriots, a winning franchise. Travel around the globe. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? According to Julie Warner, it certainly is. Warner – a Gloucester resident who grew up in the city and attended Gloucester High School – is in her third season as a New England Patriots cheerleader.
The screaming fans. The noise and excitement of Foxboro Stadium. Cheering on the hometown New England Patriots, a winning franchise. Travel around the globe.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?
According to Julie Warner, it certainly is. Warner – a Gloucester resident who grew up in the city and attended Gloucester High School – is in her third season as a New England Patriots cheerleader. She is a team captain this year, and is one of the most experienced members of the squad.
Despite all of the benefits, however, it’s in no way an easy job. While most fans are just now gearing up for the upcoming football season in August, Warner and the other cheerleaders began the 2009 football season in late February, just a few short weeks after the completion of the Super Bowl. The job requires months upon months of tryouts, practices, games, charity events and publicity events. And this doesn’t even factor in each member of the squad also juggling a full-time job at the same time to pay the bills.
“I have a full-time job as well as that, and I teach dance one day a week in Woburn,” explains Warner, who also works as a field sales representative. “So I have three jobs. This is definitely something that is a full-time commitment, but a part-time job.
“We obviously have a couple of practices a week,” she continues. “And we do promotions and appearances. Then there are the games we do. We also work with junior cheerleaders, where we have a clinic and all the kids come to that. It’s different every week.”
As a team captain this season, Warner’s responsibilities have expanded to being a leader for the 28 other members of the squad she works with throughout the year. The cheerleaders will get together during their own off time to make sure they are all on the same page, and Warner has a big part in this.
“Sometimes we get together by ourselves because there are a lot of things we need to know,” says the Gloucester resident. “Whether its cheers or dances, I’m one of the captains, so I try to make sure everyone gets together and knows what they’re doing.”
A former GHS cheerleader and an avid dancer (she attended Miss Tina’s dance school locally as part of her initial training), Warner currently one of the most tenured and experienced members of the team. After graduating from Gloucester High, Warner went to Salem State College and concentrated on dance, joining the school’s reparatory dance theater. After graduating from college, the Gloucester native decided she wanted to take the next logical step.
“When I was done with college, I wanted to pursue dancing and cheering along those lines,” says Warner. “I ended up auditioning for the Patriots, trying to make that a goal I was trying to achieve. So, I felt personally, when you’re at the top, where you’ve done dance and so much stuff, this is the greatest thing that can come out of it. I did it more or less after college because I knew I’d have to drive to Foxboro for practices, and I wanted to be more established so I could give it more of a commitment.”
And what a commitment it is, even from the start. For example, even cheerleaders who made the squad last season have to go through tryouts once again a year later. It’s a process that can be harrowing, even for a three-year veteran.
“You have auditions and 300-400 people show up,” explains Warner. “You go through a couple of rounds of dances and different things like that. You get to show some freestyle dancing, and then do things they show you. If you move on to the finals, that narrows it down to 50-60 girls, including girls returning and trying to make the team again.”
After the finals, the field is narrowed down to 35, and that group is further paired down to the final number (29 this season, 24 last season) after a two-week boot camp. And this all occurs well before the football teams begin training camps.
But the effort is worth it to those who do make the team. As Warner described, there’s always something different on the schedule each week. She has traveled to Aruba and the Dominican Republic to take part in the team’s annual swimsuit calendar. She was with the team when the Patriots battled against the Giants in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. And in July of 2008, she was able to travel to China with the team.
“It’s really cool, because obviously I’ve never been anywhere like that,” says Warner. “Because I was doing this with the Patriots, I got my first passport. We traveled to China and we worked with Chinese cheerleaders and mascots.”
It’s opportunities such as these that Warner will cherish more than ever; this will also be her last season with the team. There is a limit of three years of cheering with the Patriots, and after this season, Warner will retire. And while the term “retirement” brings to mind images of life moving at a slower pace, that’s a notion that she won’t embrace entirely. To begin with, she is looking forward to getting married in May. She will continue to work her full-time job in sales. She also may start teaching more with more time available to her.
“Honestly, I think as much as I love it and would end up doing it every year that I could, it’s also something that gives you closure,” says Warner. “Once you get to retire, you’ll always be a part of that. That’s also one thing that’s really good about it. There’s only 29 spots available, and for that many girls to audition every single year, it’s something that allows other girls a chance to step on the sidelines.”
Warner may also set aside some personal time for the first time in recent memory for herself over the coming year.
“Since I was young, I was such a busybody, and I liked to do things and dance,” she says. “I never got to sit still and enjoy a summer. I’ve always had five jobs that led to a full-time job. Next year, I want to kind of relax and take a step back and see what I’ve done, and then move on with the adult things in life.”
There are, however, things Warner will miss about being a cheerleader for the New England Patriots.
“I love that every year, I’ve made a whole bunch of new friends,” she says. “I like that I get to be on the field with the Patriots, cheering them on in front of 70,000 fans. The music is going, the fans get going, and that’s the most exciting part of it because everyone is so excited. The excitement and feeling you get at the beginning of a game, that’s one thing I will actually miss.”
Contact Jason Brisbois at firstname.lastname@example.org.