What’s it Like To Be An NFL Cheerleader?

Graciella Arrascue, Staff Writer

During her senior year at Barnstable High School in 1981 Ellen Botello decided to try out for the cheerleading team and made it; she had been a gymnast her whole life. After school, Botello moved to California. Her roommate encouraged her to try out for the Los Angeles Raiders cheer team, then called the Oakland Raiders. Out of the 1000 people that tried out, Botello was one of only 40 people that made the team.
Botello said she was “really excited” to have made the team. Her time with the Raiders was “glamorous and glitzy.” Botello cheered for the Raiders from 1986-1987.
In 1991, she moved back to Barnstable and got married. She heard that the New England Patriots cheer team was holding tryouts and made the team. She cheered for the Patriots for four seasons, from 1991-1994 and from 1996-1997.
While being a professional cheerleader is challenging enough, Botello was also balancing life as a mother to twins. Professional cheerleading is a serious commitment.
“We would usually practice twice per week for four to six hours depending on the day,” said Botello. On game days, the cheerleaders would show up at 9 am. in preparation for a 1pm. game. During this time in between they “would practice for two hours and get ready for the game,” said Botello.
Botello’s coach “ran a tight ship,” and expected the team to be “on time, prepared and professional,” said Botello. Her contract also contained a no fraternization clause, so she never came in contact with the players.
“The teams were completely different experiences,” said Botello. “The most exciting part was cheering in front of 60,000 Patriots fans,” said Botello. She liked cheering for the Patriots better. She also said that the team was very connected, “like a family.”
After retiring, Botello coached both at BHS and at ECE All Star Cheer.
Botello has heard about more recent instances of poor pay and treatment of cheerleaders, but didn’t experience this during her time. She said she was “absolutely” treated well as a cheerleader. Botello said she never cheered for the money, “I wanted to be doing it; I liked the atmosphere,” said Botello.
The teams “family” atmosphere extends past the members out on the field. Recently, Botello attended a reunion with the former teammates. Past teams were allowed to cheer together again, “it was a fun, great experience,” said Botello.