The Ravens' cheerleading squad departed to a mountain retreat on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland last weekend for some bonding and boot camp. BR.com asked cheerleader Tasha M. to chronicle the events with a behind-the-scenes blog. Here is what she had to say about the four-day camp…
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Good evening, Ravens fans, and greetings from beautiful Deep Creek Lake, home of Maryland's largest fresh water lake and site of the Ravens Cheerleaders 2008 training camp weekend! This is Tasha M. reporting that our players aren't the only ones who get to go to summer camp! J
I have just arrived in the mountainous resort area of Deep Creek, Md., and feel amazed to be back here again for my third camp as a Ravens cheerleader. Coming to Deep Creek is a Ravens Cheerleaders' tradition and is an opportunity for our team to bond, learn, and prepare for the season ahead. In the next few days, we will work harder, learn more about each other, and experience more simultaneous fun and exhaustion than ever before.
As a resident of Northern Virginia, I usually try to avoid being on the road as much as possible, but the scenic drive through the mountains and escape from the city traffic was a welcome change as I traveled west to Deep Creek this afternoon! I popped open my sunroof, played my favorite CDs, and reflected on past camps while mentally preparing for the days ahead. Though we have a packed schedule in front of us, I felt that familiar flutter of excitement about camp when, towards the end of my three-hour drive into Deep Creek, I passed by a huge flashing sign outside Smiley's Restaurant and Pizzeria welcoming the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders! We have an appearance scheduled there tomorrow night, and it was so nice to already have a warm welcome!
I arrived at my house around 6:30 this evening and was excited to see some of my fellow team members relaxing on our front porch next to a hot tub! With the long days of practice ahead of us, I have a feeling it's going to get plenty of use! Our house is situated high up on a hill and close to two other houses, each occupied by more Ravens cheerleaders. The 10 girls in our house are a mix of veterans and rookies from the dance team and the stunt team. It's a great mix, because it really allows us to get to know each other better! The house itself is three levels, and Mimi and I have claimed the upstairs loft as our room. It's a little toasty up here, but that mountain air can get chilly at night, so I think we'll appreciate the warmth when it's time to hit the hay!
A lot of girls are expressing both excitement and nervousness about the days ahead. The schedule can be overwhelming at first glance, but I know it's going to be a great experience! The first item on our itinerary is 7:30 AM conditioning tomorrow morning, so I better rest up! Sweet dreams, everyone!
Friday, June 6, 2008
Only one day into our camp and I'm already sore! Fire up that hot tub!!
Our day began at 7:30 a.m. with a run through the hilly surroundings of Garrett Community College, one of our traditional practice locations here in Deep Creek. The particular course we ran this morning is infamous for what we simply refer to as "The Hill" (which, when stated, is usually followed by a groan). There are some very steep hills throughout the course, but one in particular seems to be practically vertical! Cassandra says the best way to get through it is simply not to look up as you run! Sometimes it's best not to know how much further you have to go and just take it one stride at a time. Good advice for any challenge in life, perhaps!
After running and stretching, our morning and afternoon were spent working on routines you'll see on the sidelines this fall! We spent hours breaking down material we learned before coming to camp, as well as learning new material. Every step, every movement, must be polished and synchronized before being taken onto the field. We were very fortunate to have beautiful weather today, as it allowed us to do a lot of our practicing outside. It was sunny and hot, and now we have the sunburns to prove it!
This evening we were welcomed for dinner and an appearance at Smiley's Restaurant and Pizzeria, a great place to visit if you ever get a chance! As we walked in, we were delighted to see purple, gold and black balloons on every table, as well as Ravens fans and paraphernalia at every turn! Dinner was a delicious pizza buffet, and then we were off to mingle about the restaurant and have fun!
Smiley's has so many enjoyable activities, including laser tag, bumper boats, an arcade, miniature golf, and go-carts! I met a great group of kids in the arcade who were celebrating a birthday, and one of the girls said she hopes to be a Ravens Cheerleader one day. Moments like that are so special to me. I hope she makes it!!
From the arcade, Dorothy and I decided to head to the Old-Time Photo booth and get our pictures taken. We dressed up in saloon-style costumes and were getting ready to pose for our sepia tone photograph when some other Ravens Cheerleaders spotted us and ran over to join in the fun! The next thing we knew, a huge group of us were all decked out, posing in a variety of poses and laughing like crazy! It was a great release after a long day!
There was no better finish to our time at Smiley's than having some ice cream, so we headed over to Smiley's ice cream counter and indulged with some of the restaurants' guests! I chose one of my favorite ice cream flavors, Cake Batter, as my reward for making it up The Hill earlier today!
After Smiley's, it was back to the house for free time (or bed time, depending on how tired the cheerleader), which many of us spent going back over the material we learned today. We've got another full day ahead tomorrow and want to be prepared, so I better get back to practicing!
Good night for now!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Good evening, everyone! Another day under our belts, and we are all feeling great about our team! As busy as we have been, the time has been passing by so quickly. I can't believe we go home tomorrow!
This morning's conditioning run began at 7:45 AM and was led by rookie stunt team member Scott, who seems to have come to us straight from the Olympic marathon team! What a runner! He did a great job of leading us through it, and by the end, we were definitely warmed up!
Our morning consisted of, once again, breaking down material for the routines you'll see on the sidelines and end-zones in the fall! It's no secret that we have a great mix of dancing and stunting on our team, but today we learned a country-themed routine that's just the girls! I wonder if the ladies of Purple have ever requested a routine that's "just the guys"… Food for thought! J
After lunch, it was back to practicing for a few hours before we were scheduled to get ready for one of my favorite camp appearances: Uno's! It has been a tradition for years now that we go to the Uno Chicago Grill in Deep Creek to perform, eat, and mingle with the restaurants' guests, and it is always such a good time. The restaurant itself is located right on the water, and the outdoor area is complete with a stage for bands and DJs and lots of room for dancing! It's such a fun atmosphere!
Upon our arrival, we took the stage with the band and DJ and prepared to perform. Part of our job as cheerleaders is being able to perform our material to any song that happens to be playing. Though it was a bit of challenge dancing a high-energy routine to Jimmy Buffett's laid-back "Margaritaville," we had a blast! The crowd seemed to be having a great time, too, and was particularly dazzled by the amazing feats of our stunt team!
As much as we enjoy performing, the best part of the day at camp is getting to sit down with the other members of the team at dinner and just talk and relax! We enjoyed a beautiful tented area near the water and dined on delicious Uno's pizza for a few hours before going back to our houses for our last night at camp!
Our time here is really winding down, and it has been such a great experience. As I looked around at the faces of my teammates tonight, I was once again reminded of how fortunate I feel to be a part of this team.
Sweet dreams, everyone! My next entry will be from home in Virginia, and I've got to admit I have a lot of mixed feelings about that…
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Good afternoon, Ravens fans, and greetings from home! I just returned from camp and am writing from my tiny apartment Arlington, Va., a far cry from the scenic surroundings of Deep Creek! It's hard to believe we have wrapped up another camp so soon.
We started our day running, only not in the usual way! We needed to get our houses cleaned up and cars packed before leaving for practice, so it was a race to get it all done on time! In all the haste, I was reminded of my surroundings when I read in the check-out instructions that our trash needed to be deposited in the "bear-proof containers" at the end of our long, gravel driveway. Fortunately we didn't see any bears near our house this year, but Paige, Sarah and I did see a big, hairy spider this morning that was almost as scary!
Cars loaded, we raced to our final day of camp with minutes to spare, and our practice began with "fun conditioning!" By the third day of camp, we are usually so exhausted that we can really use a change of pace from our usual 3-mile warm up run. So, today, we ran relay races that included everything from sprints to crab-walks! Portions of the relays included partner work, and Angel was my partner for the piggy-back relay and wheel-barrow relay. We had a great time, and I'm sure we were all quite a site!
After our relays, we hit the floor for our last practice at camp and learned an entire end-zone routine. This is a feat when we're NOT sore and tired from three days of camp, so it was an extremely productive final day!
Since we were working so hard on our material this morning, the one tradition in which we were unable to partake was our annual kickball game. In the years past, our very last activity at camp has been a game of kickball. The winners get to skip running at one practice later in the season, which is all the incentive we need! The game is always a lot of fun, but truth be told, I couldn't help but secretly breathe a sigh of relief when I heard we wouldn't be playing. Why, you ask? Imagine this familiar situation: The team is counting on you. It's the bottom of the last inning with two outs and you're up to bat (or to kick, respectively). Oh, the pressure! I have, unfortunately, been THAT person for the past two years playing Ravens Cheerleader kickball, and both times I have lost the game for my team! The first year I thought it was just my bad luck, but by the second year I concluded it was just my bad technique. When it comes to sports, I have always insisted I am better suited for the sidelines, which is exactly where cheerleading allows me to be!
It's an interesting position to be in when you know you are in the midst of making memories that will last a lifetime. Looking back on the weekend, I know there are experiences I will never forget. I think everyone on the team not only had a great time, but also learned, grew closer, and is feeling ready for the season ahead! We can't wait to see you at the games and hope you will enjoy all we have planned for you!
Till then, I think I'm going to spend just one evening without my dance shoes…
Thanks for reading, and I'll talk to you later!