Aloha From Hawaii

Aloha to all the Ravens fans out there! I am coming to you from paradise, or Hawaii as some other people call it. It is absolutely beautiful out here, and I feel so lucky to be a part of the Pro Bowl cheerleading squad.

I've been here for the entire week, but I'll be honest, it hasn't been all beach time and shopping. We've had a grueling schedule from the beginning with all the appearances and rehearsals. Still, the week has been so much fun, it doesn't seem like work at all.

I got to Hawaii Monday after a looong flight from Baltimore. There was a layover in Denver to break it up a little bit. When I was there, I saw a group of pretty girls that had to be cheerleaders talking to each other. Of course they were, and I was so happy I had some friends to ride over with.

My roommate is Lauren from the Miami Dolphins, and she is so much fun. We have some of the best scenery from our room. Our hotel faces Diamond Head, which is an inactive volcano that looks so majestic. All 26 of the cheerleaders here at the Pro Bowl were on the grounds of the hotel in our team outfits to pose for the official cheerleader photo, and the volcano gave the picture a perfect background.

After that, it was rehearsal time - for the next 10 hours! We have several routines we have to be comfortable with for Sunday, and our crash course actually began weeks ago with a DVD that we received in early January. The halftime show is really important, too. We learned that the band Lifehouse is going to be performing with us at halftime and that the show is going to be nationally broadcast! I am really looking forward to that, and all you Ravens fans should keep an eye out for me during halftime.

Aside from rehearsal, we've also been going around to various appearances around the islands. There was a heart-wrenching visit to the Shriners Hospital, where the children were so sweet despite their illnesses. It was fun to see their smiles when we came through the doors.

Wednesday morning, there was the NFL Pro Bowl Kickoff rally in Bishop Square, where all the cheerleaders were introduced to the huge audience. I loved the enthusiasm of the Hawaii football fans. We got to perform for a few minutes, and then went into downtown Honolulu to get our Pro Bowl rings made. The rings are something that Pro Bowl cheerleaders started a few years ago to signify the honor of being selected to the big game. I'm so happy that I can share that bond with so many other girls across the league.

On Wednesday night, we attended a welcome luau at the Marriott Ihilani Resort. Let me tell you, it was truly authentic. They had hula dancing and men doing the traditional fire dances. And the food was wonderful. All in all, a great event.

Thursday was our first stadium rehearsal, and I think it went pretty well. We've got so many girls here that have different styles, but we're coming together as a squad. I am having such a great time learning about other cheerleading teams around the league and learning about the girls themselves - whether it is about their family, or that someone speaks Chinese, or that they've been on six different squads. Everybody has a story to tell. (oh, and a sidenote: I'm one of four Crystals here in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.)

While we're developing teamwork and chemistry, I think we've also been developing emotionally. The coaches are not just focusing on cheerleading. They are teaching us to be proud of our accomplishments and to be strong women, almost as if they're life coaches as well.

So far, this week has been unbelievable and rewarding. I have to admit that they really treat us like queens over here, and I can't thank my fellow Ravens cheerleaders back in Baltimore enough for choosing me for this honor.

Thank you all so much for reading, and stay tuned for more from me as the game gets closer!

- Crystal

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