Erin Smith cheered for the Colts for six years and retired after the 2015 season. She knew walking away would be tough. And she was right.
“I knew I was ready – but at the same time, I loved it so much. Last year’s auditions were not an easy time for me. I was crying backstage,” she says. “I was happy for all the new girls that got to experience it, but I was like, ‘That means that I’m not a cheerleader anymore.’”
What made it easier was getting involved as an instructor for the Junior Colts Cheerleading program.
“It’s all alumni Colts Cheerleaders and I started that pretty much right after I retired,” she says.
In July, cheerleader manager Kelly Tilley approached her about filling in for youth cheer coordinator Anna King (also a former Colts cheerleader), who was going on maternity leave in September.
“I don’t think I even thought about it. I was like, ‘Yep. Sure, I’ll do it,’ just because I love being a part of this organization. I started doing that in September and I basically did it through the whole season and didn’t think I’d fall in love with the job as much as I did.”
Kiley King was born on September 29th. And after staying home with her for a few months, Anna decided to make her role as a stay-at-home mom a permanent one.
“I’m happy for her,” says Erin. “I don’t blame her. Her little girl is so cute.”
It also meant there was a chance for Erin to make her role with the Colts a permanent one.
“I didn’t even ask my husband if I could tell them I would apply for the job. I went into Kelly’s office and I was like, ‘I know you haven’t opened up the job yet, but I want to apply for it.’”
She got the job. And she couldn’t be more excited about it. And with registration now open, Erin can’t wait to welcome a new group of junior cheerleaders for the 2017 season.
“We had about 350 last year, so we’re hoping for that same number – or, we would love to have more,” she says. “We’ll do registration through March and April. And then starting in May, we are going to be a part of the 500 Festival Parade again and we’re going to perform at the Indians game in May.”
But before all that, they get fitted for their own uniforms.
“It’s probably the cutest part, seeing these little girls’ eyes light up when they realize it’s a replica of the cheer uniform. You can tell they love it. Their parents absolutely love it, they’re taking pictures of them in our sample uniforms.”
The Junior Colts Cheerleaders rehearse and perform at four Colts games during the season. But that’s not all they do.
“We treat them very similar to how the Colts treat the cheerleaders,” says Erin. “We have them do so many appearances, they do community stuff. At our clinics, we talk about different ways that you can make a difference in the community, that you can make a difference at home, with your friends, and just becoming a better person.”
They get the whole experience of what it’s like to be a Colts cheerleader, in hopes that some, like Alexis – who just finished her rookie season, may eventually decide to become Colts cheerleaders.
“Ironically, Alexis was a junior cheerleader my rookie year,” Erin says.
And who knows, some day Alexis may have Kiley King in her junior cheerleading squad.
It’s the circle of life for an NFL cheerleader.
And Erin feels fortunate to be a part of it.
“The cheerleaders are great role models for these girls. They’re successful women and they’re great at what they do. So, I think it shows that you can pretty much do anything you put your mind to.”
Erin is a great example of that herself.
For more information or to register your daughter for the Colts Junior Cheer program, go to: http://www.colts.com/cheerleaders/juniorcheer.html.