Chato Hendrix, the director of the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, is set to direct her 21st audition for the team, starting with the preliminary rounds on Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
“We’ve always tried to promote the ladies being role models, but this year we are going to take ‘Wow Women’ to pushing our whole team to be inspiring on and off the field.”
Hendrix is a high school guidance counselor and her assistant, Jakene Ashford, is a chemist. They've worked together over the past 17 seasons putting the team together. They are expecting close to 300 women to tryout for the 2018 squad. Click here for information on the auditions.
“Our oldest cheerleader (last season) was 38,” Hendrix said. “Our youngest made the team at 19. So, it varies as long as they are 18 by June, they can make the team. There is no cutoff as far as maximum age.
“But the ladies that are outgoing as far as being career-driven, we have the whole spectrum from ladies who are in-school and starting the process of working toward a career, the entrepreneurs, to ladies that are well into their careers as a CPA or what have you.
“We also promote that stay at home Mom. We have a couple of ladies that were full-time Moms that were on the team.”
After the preliminary round on Sunday, those cheerleaders that advance are interviewed and undergo a social media evaluation.
“On that first day, it is more about seeing if they are physically fit and if they are talented,” Hendrix said. “Do they have showmanship? Are they performing at a level that our fans would want to see them performing. After that, we go deep by interviewing them and getting to know who they are. We ask them a lot of questions and we look at their social media because we believe that social media is your way to promote your brand. So, we look at how they are promoting themselves to see if it’s in line with what we represent and that’s being classy.”
The final squad will have between 30 to 36 members. Hendrix wants professional women to know that the cheerleader squad can fit into their schedules.
“If you’ve cheered and dance in high school or college, this is the next round for you,” Hendrix said. “But I’m an attorney now. Or I’m an engineer now and that doesn’t fit. It actually does and it will.”
She noted the schedule is structured and the expectations of the team are clear, with practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“You have the 10 home games and then if there is a game out of the country or the Super Bowl you have to add that to the list,” Hendrix said. “The ladies do hundreds of appearances throughout the year. That’s the entire team and you actually get to select your appearance schedule. You make it work around your work schedule.”
Some cheer and/or dance background is helpful.
“We really want to push to that former cheerleader and dancer that still loves to dance and still wants to perform,” Hendrix said. “This is your platform and the added bonus is that they also serve as an ambassador in the community.”
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com