It's a busy week for the Colts Cheer hopefuls as they prepare for the final audition showcase on Sunday. Long days, early mornings, late nights, and the pressure of performing - it's a mental and physical grind - one that can lead to a life-changing opportunity. From the fitness test to the interview to rehearsals and memorizing choreography - all in an effort to land their dream job as an Indianapolis Colts Cheerleader.
"We ask a lot of them this week and it's because we can see their potential," said Colts Cheer Director Kelly Tilley. "What transpires this week is us pushing them to their maximum potential and giving them the confidence to know that they can do this."
For the 47 candidates who made it through the first round of auditions, this week is ripe with opportunity - and potential missteps.
Headshots of the 2019 Colts Cheer Audition finalists.
"It was my second time trying out and I was very confident. I thought I had it all together compared to the year before. I had rehearsed my questions and answers. I knew the football test. But the one thing you can't prepare for is the unexpected," said Abby.
So she made sure to leave herself plenty of time before her interview.
"I didn't want to be late, so I showed up early and I had my lipstick in my hand. I was getting ready to go into the bathroom to put it on, only to realize I had already put it on. It wasn't on my lips, it was on my dress."
She had a big, pink stain on her beautiful blue dress. But what happened next was also beautiful. The women in the lobby, who were waiting on their interviews, dropped everything to lend a hand.
She aced the interview, made the team, and made some friends in the process.
"At that point, you're still kind of learning names and faces. It wasn't until months later that I looked back at audition week and said, 'Oh my gosh! That was our first real encounter. Now, we're teammates. Now, we're best friends.'"
Audition week is a little like finals week. It's about preparing, managing time, and managing emotions.
"Last year, I was trying to balance school and I had a lot of tests during this showcase week," said three-year veteran, Ambria. "During the interview process, I was running late. I think my interview was at 11. I left home at 10:50, my gas light came on, I hit a car on the way, so bad - like, the worst day of my whole life."
Thankfully, the car she hit belonged to a friend.
"I was like, 'I have to go!' And they were fine," she laughed.
She made it with a minute to spare. And that was the lesson she took away.
"Just keep going. Nothing can stop your shine. Nothing can bring you down. On the final day, Sunday - it'll all be worth it," she said. "And you'll eventually learn to leave more than 10 minutes early."
That was the lesson Bailey learned during her rookie year of auditions.
A student at Purdue at the time, she left West Lafayette for her interview in Indy and realized her gas tank was empty. She rolled into the nearest station on fumes - only to realize she didn't have her wallet. At that point, she did the only thing she could think of - and called her mom.
"I was crying because I literally had no wallet, no money, and I was on fumes. She was like, 'Ok. Do you see any nice cars in the parking lot?' and I was like, 'No.' She was like, 'Go inside and ask if he'll give you money and you can bring it tomorrow.' I was like, 'I can't do that.' She goes, 'Take the phone in to the guy working inside.' So I hand him the phone and say, 'My mom is on the phone.' He talked to her and whatever she said worked because he goes, 'Bring me 20 dollars tomorrow.'"
Now retiring after two seasons, it's a story she shares with others to put this week in perspective.
"My message to them would be to know that things are going to go wrong. Everything is not going to go perfectly. Life doesn't work that way. Just roll with the punches, because they're also looking to see how you respond to things. Be prepared with what you can and the things you can't control, just roll with it."
Preparation is a lesson one-year veteran Caroline K. learned in college.
"When I auditioned for Butler's dance team, you needed your student ID to be able to audition. I showed up and I was early and I was ready to go. And then they asked for my ID and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I don't have it,'" she said. "I walked because it was on campus and one of my friends was like, 'Take my car.' I got in and the car wouldn't start, so I sprinted in the pouring rain. But I needed my ID to get me into my dorm room, so I couldn't get into my dorm."
It was a series of unfortunate events, but it all worked out. She auditioned soaking wet and made the team. She also took away a valuable lesson.
"I will never forget. I always triple check my stuff."
Leaving enough time beforehand is key. But as three-year veteran, Lexie, found out - so is leaving enough time afterwards.
"Before my interview, I had to come from school. So, I left my kids with another teacher in the building," she said. "I came in for my interview and they were running a couple minutes behind. I was like, 'Oh my gosh. I don't have anybody to cover my class if I don't make it back to school on time.' I had a classroom of 22 first graders, 6 and 7-year-olds, that would not have an adult in the building if I didn't make it back on time."
She talked to Tilley and she made arrangements to get her in and out quickly. And what Lexie learned was that if you have a problem, speak up.
"You want to give so much to this process, but at the same time, you can't give up your full-time job, either" she said. "Don't lose your real job, because they're counting on you too."
Carissa has three kids at home that are counting on her while she auditions for her second season as a Colts cheerleader. And as any parent knows, life with kids is unpredictable.
"Today, I picked up Zeke, he's one, and he puked all over," she said.
Still, she made it to preliminary auditions on Saturday with time to spare.
"I'm here. I might smell like puke, but it's ok," she laughed. "It's my everyday life. We just roll with it."
After 11 auditions of her own, eight with the Pacers and three with the Colts, that's the advice Jessica R. gives everyone.
"Do not try anything new. Keep life as normal as possible," she said. "I even say don't take work off, because that's going to be an adjustment to your week. Try to keep things as normal as possible, try to stay calm, and most importantly, try to have fun and be yourself."
As she joins the sisterhood of retired cheerleaders, Jessica is happy to use her experience to help others.
"It's humbling that they want to ask me and they want my advice."
As the Colts Cheerleaders move on to the next chapter, Tilley isn't just preparing them for game day - she's preparing them for every day - and life thereafter.
"There are a lot of times you're given a situation that you're not necessarily prepared for and you've got to just go for it."
If you miss, don't miss the lesson.
Then, put it behind you and move on.
Because just like football, it's all about the next play.
Good luck to all the Colts Cheer hopefuls!
For information and to buy tickets to the Colts Cheer Audition Showcase, click here.