I wear a ridiculous amount of red, white and blue and on game days; you can spot me from a mile away. I'm the girl wearing goofy blue warm ups and a red shirt. I have nearly 10 pounds of hairspray in my hair, large fake eyelashes on my eyes and a pair of pompoms shoved in my backpack.
No, I'm not a cheerleader. Get that thought out of your head this instant.
I am a member of the American University Dance Team (lovingly referred to as AUDT or DT), in Washington, D.C. and I proudly dedicate all of my free time to do the thing I love, even if that means giving up some regular college experiences, including dressing normally on game days.
In fact, "I can't, I have dance," is the most common phrase you'll hear if you ask me if I would like to go out to eat somewhere other than the campus dining hall, go shopping downtown or even take a luxurious spring break vacation to a beautiful Caribbean island.
Each week, I attend three practices, during which we perfect our routines for basketball games and later in the season, nationals. We practice about eight hours a week, making sure that each side line has the right amount of punch and every half time routine is entertaining. During nationals season, we practice nearly every day of the week, sometimes even twice a day.
It's true what they say. Practice does make perfect or well, as close to perfect we can possibly get. This past year, we received our best score ever in our jazz category and placed 9th in the country in our hip hop division, which was a tremendous success considering our tiny team of ten competed against huge teams such as Louisville and North Carolina State that fill the stage with around 20 girls.
In addition to practice time, we spend around two hours a week at the gym running, stretching and lifting weights to make sure we're in tip top shape. We are athletes and we must treat our bodies as such.
Once basketball season starts, things start to get really crazy. We support both our men's and women's varsity teams, which means we usually attend two games a week, sometimes more. Each game lasts around two hours and we arrive an hour and a half early to each game. That's another seven hours a week.
That's still not all. We fundraise for our trip to NDA Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla. each April and make appearances to promote school spirit. That's roughly another two hours a week.
And because we're primarily students, all new members must complete five hours of study hall each week during their first semester. After a member has achieved at least a 3.0, she will no longer have to attend study hall. Combined with our cheer team, we have one of the highest GPAs in the athletics department ... over a 3.5!
Total up all of that time and you've got 24 hours. Now, add in classes, homework and sleep. With schedules like mine, there's barely any time to do laundry or watch the newest episode of Glee.
Phew. It's not surprising that I now have excellent time management skills. On DT, there is no other choice. Budgeting my time is something I struggled with in high school but now I'm a pro. I carry around two agendas, have an ongoing to do list and my iCalendar is always up to date. Being organized and learning how to properly manage time was just one of the many surprise perks that came along with making DT.
Sometimes it seems like dance team is all hard work and no play but think again.
One of the best parts about being on a team are teammates. Bonding with these girls is always a blast. It's great because you're automatically connected by the love of dance but by the end, you become like sisters. I know it sounds hokey but its true. If I ever have a problem, they're there for me whether I need a ride to catch a train home or if I need help with my homework. It's always nice to know that there is someone who completely understands what I'm going through.
Winston Churchill described it best when he said, "if you're going through hell, keep going." Sometimes it's hard to make it through a tough day with double practices filled with sprints, push ups and countless crunches but if I'm doing it with my teammates, I know I'll make it through.
Yes, dance team is often exhausting and frustrating. But in the end, the reward is exceptionally gratifying. No matter how many bones I bruise or days of vacation time I miss, the outcome always outweighs the long and difficult journey. In fact, I'll choose physical therapy and poor knees, two back-to-back block classes from 5:30 to 10:40 p.m., and missing all the Tuesday night D.C. activities if it means every week I get to walk into Bender Arena wearing a red sparkly dress with my teammates.
After all, the only thing worse than being on dance team is not being on dance team.