Meet the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

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01
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Started as a Marketing Tool

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Abigail Klein of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performs during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Texas Stadium on October 26, 2008 in Irving, Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

America's sweethearts, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, have been warming the hearts of football fans since the 1970s when team president and general manager Tex Schramm recognized the marketing potential of such a unit. Schramm began recruiting professional dancers in the early 1970s to perform at games. Before that time, local high school students made up the Cowboys cheerleading squad. Today, the Dallas Cowboys squad is perhaps the most visible group of cheerleaders in professional sports and are recognized worldwide.

02
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History of the Squad

Dallas Cowboys cheerleader
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs on the field during the game against the New England Patriots at Texas Stadium on October 14, 2007 in Irving, Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

 A cheerleader group called the CowBelles & Beaux, made up of male and female high school students, actually began performing on the sidelines during the Cowboys inaugural season in 1960. In 1970, Schram decided the squad need a boost, so he dropped the males from the group and turned it into an all-female squad, according to Wikipedia. But, for the first two seasons, the cheerleading squad was still made up of high school students.

03
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The Squad Ups Its Age Requirement

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader cheers during the game against the Washington Redskins at Texas Stadium on September 17, 2006 in Dallas, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 27-10. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"In 1972, Texie Waterman, a New York choreographer, was recruited and assigned to auditioning and training an entirely new female squad who would all be over 18 years of age, searching for attractive appearance, athletic ability, and raw talent as performers," Wikipedia states," adding that it didn't take long for the squad to go Hollywood, appearing on two network TV specials, NBC's "Rock-n-Roll Sports Classic" and "The Osmond Brothers Special" on ABC. A TV movie, "The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders," aired in 1979 and scored a 48 percent share of the national television audience.

04
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Dallas Cheerleader U

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions on November 20, 2005 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Lions 20-7. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, making the squad is no easy feat. The cheerleaders hold annual auditions -- but don't think you can just show up. "Master Instructors and DCC Group Leaders introduce you to the choreography and techniques taught to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the Audition Prep Classes," notes the Dallas Cowboys website. These are full-on ​classes, involving warmups, learning the "high kick that all Dallas Cheerleaders do," as well as the various combination-moves squad members are expected to know. 

05
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Even Veterans Can Be Cut

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A cheerleader with the Dallas Cowboys performs during the game against Washington Redskins on December 26, 2004 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys won 13-10. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Up to 600 women a year, between the ages of 18 and 40, try out for 36 to 39 spots on the squad. All cheerleaders must try out for spots every year, and "sometimes veterans get cut," according to "USA Today." Just to make the team, you have to take and pass an 80-question test "covering the history of the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, current ​events and nutrition." Squad hopefuls also undergo a background check, have their social media accounts investigated, learn interviewing skills and undergo etiquette training.

06
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Making the Squad

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A member of the Dallas Cowboys cheer squad performs during the game against the Washington Redskins on November 2, 2003 in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 21-14. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The process for making the squad is so grueling that a reality show about the process has run for 10 seasons called: "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team." As County Music Television, the cable and satellite channel that airs the show, notes: Hundreds audition but only 45 women secure a spot in the Dallas Cowboys ​cheerleaders training camp. "DCC director Kelli Finglass presides over the process with a keen eye for talent and beauty," CMT notes on its website.

07
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It's Not About The Money

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Monica Y. Cravinas dances on the field during the NFL game against the New York Giants on October 6, 2002 at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 21-17. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"NFL cheerleaders don't do it for the money," says Megan McArdle on BloomBergView, who admits that she has watched eight seasons of "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team." NFL cheerleaders -- including the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders -- make very little for their efforts. ​SportsDay notes that the cheerleaders made $150 per home game during the 2013 season -- "if they make it out of training camp."

08
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It's a Stretch for Many

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader smiles during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX. The Eagles defeat the Cowboys 36-3. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Most Dallas cheerleaders have full-time jobs in addition to their cheer responsibilities, says "USA Today." It's a struggle for most. “I was leaving work every day and going straight to practice and not getting home until 11 or 12 at night,” Sunni West, who was a Dallas cheerleader from 2008 to 2011 told the newspaper. “There was no downtime. No quiet time for me." By comparison, NFL mascots make between $35,000 and $55,000 per year, according to "Upstart Business Journal."

09
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The Crowd Loves 'Em

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 48-7. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the most iconic and recognizable squad of dancers in the NFL (in the world, actually), are used to the spotlight," Jay Betsill writes on DFW.com. And, the cheerleaders, themselves, are very happy to play to the crowd, which often includes their friends and family: "We work so hard for this uniform, and being able to look up in the crowd and see my family and being able to share this game-day experience with them is very special," Angela Rena, a veteran cheerleader who had moved all the way from Australia to join the squad, told DFW in 2013.

10
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Public Adulation

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader smiles during the game against Washington Redskins at the Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 38-20. Brian Bahr/Getty Images

"Nobody outside the state can quite understand just how big a deal it is to be a cheerleader in Texas," former Dallas cheerleader Stephanie Scholz told the "Chicago Tribune" in 1991. The article was part of a three-part series specifically on the Dallas cheerleaders. This might come as a surprise, considering that Chicago has its own football team, the Bears, which used to have a cheer squad, the Honey Bears. But, such is the adulation and notoriety that Dallas cheerleaders receive -- even newspapers in towns with competing NFL teams do multipart stories on the Texas squad.

11
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No Fraternization With Players

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys in action during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Panthers 27-20. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

"When Tex Schramm decided to add the DCC to the Cowboys entertainment package, legendary head coach Tom Landry was none too pleased," according to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Blog. "He said the ladies were not wholesome and he did not want them on the sidelines." This may have been the impetus for the rule forbidding fraternization -- read dating -- between Cowboys players and cheerleaders. The organization has since eased the rules somewhat, allowing cheerleaders to appear with players in magazine shoots, at charity events and select community efforts, such as hospital visits. But, a cheerleader who is caught fraternizing with a player outside of those limited venues is still subject to immediate termination.

12
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The 'American Woman'

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders watch the action during a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys won the game 34-31. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Dallas says it wants cheerleaders who can be respectful yet be themselves. “What we look for in our cheerleading squad is simply something for everyone -- a cross section of the American woman," says squad director Finglass. "We want everyday ladies who can make an impact on their community: intelligent role models who are poised, attractive, confident, talented entertainers. They must be givers who understand that they themselves have been given a gift, and now have the opportunity to share that gift with others."

13
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Service to Others

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader looks on during Super Bowl XXX between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sun Devil Stadium on January 28,1996 in Tempe, Arizona. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers 27-17. George Rose/Getty Images

The Dallas cheerleaders are not just pretty faces. Part of their role is serving others -- and making them happy. Suzanne Mitchell, who died in 2016, was the first director of the Dallas cheerleaders -- indeed, she put the initial squad together at Schramm's direction. Mitchell recalled early complaints about the cheerleaders, who many saw as scantily clad distractions from the game. "I would call after I’d get a letter and ask what the letter writer had been doing on Christmas Eve,” she was quoted as saying in 'The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America' by Joe Nick Patoski.

“Then I would tell them there were 12 girls who were in the DMZ in Korea performing in minus-20-degree weather serving their country.” The cheerleaders were in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea during the holiday to entertain American troops.

14
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Time for Fun

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
The Dallas Cowboys mascot and a Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders pose for a photo during the 1995 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on February 5, 1995 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-13. George Rose/Getty Images

Being a Dallas cheerleader is not all serious work -- visiting military zones, cheering the sick in hospitals and attending community events. There's also time for a few laughs, such as posing with Rowdy, the Dallas Cowboys mascot. Indeed, fans turn out the see the smiling mascot as much as the cheerleaders at community and charity events, as well as autograph-signing days, as ​SportsDay noted. Rowdy seems to enjoy playing to the fans as much as the cheerleaders do -- maybe more so.

15
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Shrinking Pom-poms

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader performs during a game against the Washington Redskins at Texas Stadium on November 20, 1994 in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 31-7. George Rose/Getty Images

The pom-poms have always been a big part of the Dallas cheerleaders' uniform, which has only been modified six times since the squad came into existence. But, the pom-poms used to be large enough to cover a cheerleader's body, especially in 1960 when the squad was made of high school students. Indeed, pom-poms have been around as a decorative accessory for cheerleaders since the 1930s, according to OmniCheer and were intially made of paper, which did not hold up well in rainy weather. So, manufacturers started making accessories out of more durable plastic, such as the pom-poms the Dallas cheerleaders use today.

16
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And, of Course, the Hats

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl on January 31, 1993 in Pasadena, California. The Cowboys defeated the Bills 52-17. George Rose/Getty Images

One thing that clearly distinguishes the Dallas cheerleaders from other squads is the cowboy hats that have been part of the uniform in the past. You can't buy the distinctive hats anymore on the team's website. But, the headpieces are still very much part of the history of the cheer squad -- showing the group's distinctive Texas roots. "If you're from Texas and one day you get chosen to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, it's right up there with your wedding day," former cheerleader Scholz told the "Chicago Tribune" in its three-part series on the squad. "And, depending on who you marry, it might even be bigger." 

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Your Citation
Alder, James. "Meet the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders." ThoughtCo, Sep. 15, 2017, thoughtco.com/dallas-cowboys-cheerleaders-4122763. Alder, James. (2017, September 15). Meet the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dallas-cowboys-cheerleaders-4122763 Alder, James. "Meet the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dallas-cowboys-cheerleaders-4122763 (accessed October 17, 2017).