On September 9, 1960, while the Patriots played in the first ever American Football League game against the Denver Broncos, college cheerleaders from schools like BC cheered them on. Today, the New England Patriots cheer squad consists of 34 professional cheerleaders, and for this year’s final preseason game, 220 women from past and present Patriots squads reunited for a massive, show-stopping performance.
These women aren’t just cheerleaders, though. They’ve held a vast range of different careers and paths – these are women from all walks of life, who happen to be unified by cheering.
“It’s amazing what all these women do. They have all these different professions,” says Susan Shannon, former director of the Patriots Cheerleaders. Doctors, lawyers, researchers, engineers, nurses, and teachers are just a few of the positions these woman hold. One woman is a mountain climber. One works for NASA.
Around 30 of the past and present cheerleaders are from the North Shore. Speaking to these women gave an even better conception of the range of careers they hold. There was a school teacher missing the first day of school for the cheer practice, surgical nurses, a salon owner, a secretary, a sales associate, a marketing professional, a woman with a master’s in hematology, and even the regional administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration. There were also a handful of dance studio owners, who made their passion for dancing into a career beyond cheering. Beverly Richards Dance Center in Boston, Dance with Dena in Peabody, Legacy Irish Dance Academy in Wakefield, and Livin LaVita Loca in Tewksbury are all owned by former Pats cheerleaders.
“When you’re young and you start your profession, you have your career, and then your hobby. Cheering is a hobby that follows you into your career,” says Shannon. “It brings leadership into your life, you have to be an amazing athlete, the commitment is huge, you have to have a philanthropic attitude,” Shannon says of these “intriguing, amazing” women.
A spectator couldn’t tell on first observance that most of these women haven’t seen each other in tens of years. The synchronized choreography, the smiles, the hugs, the pep, all point to a group of women united by something deep and unique. Shannon says they’re all “the same type of personality.”
“The younger women are meeting the older ones and seeing role models, and someday they’ll become role models themselves.” Cheerleading is a wonderful environment for young girls to be exposed to, says Shannon. “These women are teaching younger girls that they can be professional and have a career and also dance and have fun.”