Although the 2012 NFL season started in early September, things have been quieter than usual around Gillette Stadium with the Patriots playing three of their first four games on the road. Due to the early season road trips, the New England Patriots Cheerleaders have only been in front of the home crowd once during the 2012 season. Although they have not been cheering in front of the home crowd for the past few weeks, the Patriots cheerleaders have focused their efforts outside of the New England community in order to help promote both the Patriots and the NFL.
In late August, Cheerleader Director Tracy Sormanti took four cheerleaders on a trip to the Nike Festival of Sport (FOS) in Shanghai, China. Nike developed the FOS to help increase participation in sports in China and the Patriots Cheerleaders were asked to help out at the festival's NFL Zone.
Almost as soon as she arrived back in New England following the trip to Shanghai, Sormanti began preparing her squad for a return trip to China. This time, the destination was the NFL Experience Tour at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB): a preschool through 12th grade international institution which boasts a student body that represents over 50 different countries.
Upon arriving in Beijing, Sormanti and the cheerleaders headed to the WAB to meet with students and give lessons on nutrition, healthy living and of course, cheering. After spending time with the students and helping them create their own pep rally, the Patriots Cheerleaders were given a tour of the school's campus. The WAB campus incorporates both modern and traditional Chinese architecture and reflects "'jing shen' or a special spirit of being welcoming, friendly, vibrant and creative," according to the school's website. Sormanti and the squad were blown away.
"At first I thought I was on a college campus," said Patriots Cheerleader Caitlin M. "The school was beautiful."
The WAB campus proved to be the perfect location for the NFL Experience Tour, as the school's impressive athletic facilities provided ample room for Saturday's activities which included an interactive NFL Game Zone, free flag football clinics and exhibition tackle football games featuring Beijing's local teams.
The Patriots Cheerleaders took center stage among the flying footballs and excited fans, performing dance routines each hour and conducting a co-ed cheerleading clinic for children ages 6-17.
According to Sormanti, the cheerleading clinic was a hit and the squad capped the session off by teaching the group a "Unity" cheer in line with the theme of the weekend: bringing different cultures together through the common passion for American Football.
"The guests at the NFL Experience seemed fascinated by the overall concept of football and the influences it has on our culture," said Patriots Cheerleader Alanna P. "A common question I was asked was how can football help bring families together and how can it help their culture find unity and a spirit of camaraderie."
While the cheerleaders played a major role at the NFL Experience, they were not the only NFL ambassadors on hand. Former Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Kordell Stewart was also in attendance to lead instructional drills and sign autographs for the fans.
Although the NFL Experience only lasted one day, the cheerleaders' journey had just begun. Sormanti, who was making her sixth trip to China on behalf of the Patriots and the NFL, led her squad on a tour of the city and made sure that the group hit all of the major historical sites and tourist stops, including attractions such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.
Patricia F., who has been cheering for the Patriots for the past three years, was fascinated by the city's diverse culture and explained that the squad was able to experience both historical and modern day China all in the same day.
"It was great to experience the culture from the 15th Century and walk through the Forbidden City," explained Patricia. "Later on we were able to experience the high fashion culture of the 21st century while participating in a FHM China photo shoot."
Having returned to New England with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime, the cheerleaders are excited to get back in front of the home crowd and cheer on the Patriots this Sunday as they take on the Denver Broncos.