The path to becoming a Ravens cheerleader began Wednesday night, as nearly 100 hopefuls came to team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md. for the 2008 Cheerleader Prep Clinic.
School was definitely in session, as current cheerleaders led the recruits through lessons ranging from a simple pirouette to a more complicated dance routine. The girls were also given tips on what to wear to tryouts (Saturday, March 1 and Sunday, March 2), from the sports bra to the white tennis shoes.
Former Ravens cheerleader Molly even passed on the proper shade of lipstick to carry.
"These are things they need to know," she said with a laugh. "You wouldn't even know to ask about something like the right lipstick if we didn't tell them."
For those planning on trying out for the squad, the clinic was definitely an eye-opening event, one that left many applicants feeling confident before the trials, or at least slightly less worried.
"I just wanted a heads-up," said Meghan DiMauro, a third-grade teacher from Havre de Grace, Md. "I feel like I know 10 times as much about the tryout process than I did coming in. I feel a little bit more settled and not as nervous."
As minute as some of the finer points seemed, DiMauro and those in attendance will certainly have an added advantage over those prospects that only show up for tryouts. They could mean the difference between cheering for the Ravens on the field and cheering from the stands next season.
Coach Tina Galdieri knows just what she's looking for to fill the few open positions on the team.
"The Ravens cheerleading program has established a tradition of excellence for the past 10 years," she explained. "So, we have a good idea of what makes up a Ravens cheerleader. It is a combination of glamour, poise and talent all in one."
The talent to keep up with the complex dance routines is one thing, but Galdieri keeps a close eye out for an intangible quality that makes up the Ravens' ambassadors.
"Cheering for the Ravens allows you to take on an interactive role, on the field and in the community, as part of the best organization in the NFL," she noted.
DiMauro was in full agreement.
"I just have a passion for dancing, so that's one thing," said the 22-year-old. "But, this isn't all about dancing on the field. They get out in the community, and that's a big part for me."
There are other aspects of the squad that were represented on the indoor practice field. In one end, girls could be seen catapulted into the air by strong male cheerleaders to prepare potential applicants for the Ravens' stunt crew, the only co-ed squad in the in the league.
In addition, those that may not have the polished background in dance that the coaches are looking for will have the opportunity to tryout for the Ravens' Playmakers promotional team (Sunday, March 2), another great way to represent pride in the purple and black.
"The playmaker program offers a unique opportunity for women who want to be involved in the Ravens organization but may not have the performance experience that would allow them to be a cheerleader," said Jeni Pileggi, Playmakers coordinator and a former cheerleader herself.
"One of my favorite parts of being a cheerleader was the fan interaction," she continued. "The Playmaker program is an opportunity to interact with fans while enjoying the gameday experience at the same time."
Despite the smiles that seemed permanently glued to the concentrating faces of the anxious hopefuls, there was a competitive atmosphere hanging over the group.
And if the prospects thought the prep clinic was competitive, all they have to do is wait two weeks for the real thing to begin.