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Leading The Cheers

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Cardinals cheerleader hopefuls learn a routine from director of cheerleading Heather Karberg Saturday during annual tryouts.

In the dead of the offseason for the football team, the Cardinals' cheerleading squad began their most important weekend of the year.

Tryouts for the 2008 version began Saturday, in a quest to do more than have someone dance at halftime or celebrate a touchdown.

"It is probably one of the most exciting times for me during the year because my goal as a director is to not only pick good dancers, but I want to change these women, I want to change their lives," said the Cards' director of cheerleading, Heather Karberg. "It's not just, 'I want to be a cheerleader for the team,' but more reaching out into the community, learning to be a sophisticated woman.

"We do try to make all-around women. And I can see that potential in all of them."

More than 150 women showed up for the tryouts to first audition in a style of dance the applicants choose. Then came an initial cut and the chance to learn a short routine from Karberg before performing again.

By the end of the day, the number of women had been whittled to 50. The remaining candidates will return Sunday for an interview about their educational or business background, before doing the routine again for a new set of judges.

All the remaining women will also be invited to two "practices" next week to get to know Karberg and the expectations of the program, before the final squad will be revealed on azcardinals.com Friday.

"For a lot of girls," Karberg said, "it takes them a couple years just to learn what we are looking for."

Karberg prefers to have a mix of veterans and first-time cheerleaders on her final team of between 30 and 40 women.

"Whenever you come out here you have the anxiety, the excitement, and the nervousness," said Angie, a veteran of three seasons. "You don't know who's out there or how you're going to perform, but it's very exciting."

Judging is done by a mix of Karberg, team sponsors and people from within the organization. Ten judges were used Saturday, with a different group of seven on Sunday to allow a set of fresh eyes to make the determinations.

It can be an intense and nerve-wracking process.

"I see a lot of girls I know who have a lot of dancing experience," said Alix, a first-year hopeful. "There's a ton of girls here and everyone looks really good, so I'm nervous."

Once the squad is named, Karberg begins the 2008 season in May, with a weekend "training camp" for the new group.

"I run a very structured program and I want to let them know what they are getting into," Karberg said. "Because it is a commitment."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 4/5/08.

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