Growing up in Crown Point, Indiana, Cortney was a dancer. But she wasn't necessarily a natural.
"I began in ballet when I was younger and gymnastics and I really was not very good. When I was really young I feel like I was good for being young doing dance, but when I auditioned for my middle school dance team, I didn't make it my first year."
She didn't let that deter her from trying out again – and the next year, she made the team. It was a valuable experience – one she would reflect back on years later.
In high school, she danced on her school team and in her hometown studio – which allowed her to expand her dance background.
"I took more hip-hop classes and jazz and I got back into ballet," she says. "So, I tried to get a little more well-rounded as a dancer."
Rather than pursue the next step in her dance career, it kind of pursued her.
"For my 18th birthday, one of my friends took me to my first Colts game. I saw the girls dancing and I had never really thought about it before – but after watching the Colts Cheerleaders, I knew I had to try out," she says. "If you really want it, you'll find a way to get it. I wanted it really bad."
Cheer Extra - New Squad - CORTNEY L.
Just how bad – she was about to find out.
Cortney moved to Indianapolis, auditioned, and made the team.
"I just got really blessed to make that team my first year."
The next year, she didn't make the team. Remembering her middle school experience, she tried out again – and didn't make it that year either.
"It really kind of shattered my life for a second there because I knew what I was missing out on – but coming back and trying out that fourth time was so worth it because I knew I had nothing to lose and everything to gain."
The fourth time was a charm – Cortney was back in her boots.
"I kind of felt like a rookie again because those two years in the middle, I saw the team get better and better."
But so did she.
Even when she wasn't on the team, Cortney was still giving it her all – using the feedback she got to work harder – and that hard work is still paying off.
"I feel well rounded in just about every way after auditioning so many times," she says. "After auditioning five times, it changes you. It makes you grow as a woman. And to audition for the team, you have to be well spoken, you have to be great at fitness, great at appearances, and you have to really be a great sister."
It's that sisterhood that keeps her coming back.
"If you're willing to come back that many times after not making it, then you're willing to put your heart, your soul, your blood, sweat, and tears into this team – and that's what's going to get you there."
Cortney plans to audition for a sixth time this year. Now a veteran of the Colts Cheerleaders, she uses the lessons she's learned to help guide other girls through the process.
"If this is what you want and you want to be a Colts cheerleader, it takes heart."
And that's something no one can ever take away.