Cheerleader tryouts for the Baltimore Ravens kicked off today as more than 200 hopefuls turned out in a bid to join the squad.
Newcomers and veterans alike will be fighting for team's 60 cheerleading positions at the Merritt Downtown Athletic Club this weekend. It's the first step in a month-long audition process that will culminate in an "American Idol"-like stage show at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel on March 26.
Today is all about initial impressions with most of the cuts happening tomorrow, says Heather Blocher, the Ravens' advertising and marketing coordinator.
"If a girl's hair is a mess or her makeup is off, we can take today to pull her aside and give her pointers," Blocher says. "Then if she comes back tomorrow improved, she can move on."
Around noon today, scores of women in fitted white Ravens' uniforms filled the athletic club's basketball court, getting their dance moves down pat before moving on the judging panel. As high-energy dance music blasted over the speakers, several curious gym-goers neglected their workouts and dozens of cameras flashed, giving the would-be cheerleaders a small taste of the attention they would receive on game day.
Blocher said about 40-50 members of last year's squad have returned to try out again this year. They will be judged tomorrow and spent today helping and observing the new talent.
The cheerleaders aren't just judged on athletics and appearance, Blocher says. The judges — including college cheerleading coaches, radio personalities and even a salon owner — evaluate the contenders on eight criteria such as poise and speaking ability.