Westford, Mass., resident Patricia Fox, a graduating senior in civil engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was one of 25 women who recently qualified for the New England Patriots Cheerleaders. Fox, who was a member of the UMass Amherst Dance Team for four years, is a Renaissance woman whose passions range from historic preservation – the field she desires to work in as a professional engineer – to the UMass Amherst chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an idealistic organization that works in Third World countries to create engineering projects such as clean water systems.
What inspired an engineering student to try out for the Patriots Cheerleaders? “My biggest inspiration is my family’s love for the Patriots,” Fox said, “as well as my love for dancing.”
During the tryout, beginning in early March, two dance combinations were taught to 300 candidates during a preliminary audition process. Participants performed the combinations in small groups for a panel of judges.
“The tryouts were certainly a tough challenge, going from about 300 women to the final 25,” said Fox. “We had to perform routines with a few days to practice them and perform them perfectly every time. These routines, coupled with cardio training, made for some of the hardest practices I've experienced thus far, but every second was certainly fun and enjoyable.”
During the two weeks between preliminary and final auditions, the finalists reported to Gillette Stadium for personal interviews with Tracy Sormanti, cheerleader director. At final auditions, they were asked to perform the routines they learned at preliminaries. Each finalist also performed a short freestyle combination with her own choreography, showcasing her personal style. In addition, all the finalists were taught, and were required to perform, a kick-line combination and an optional tumbling pass.
“The tryouts were about five weeks long,” said Fox, “and it was very tough waiting to hear each week if I made it to the next round. Luckily, as you can tell, I made it onto the best cheerleading team in the NFL!”
Since the Patriots Cheerleaders team is only a part-time job, Fox doesn’t expect it to interfere with her longtime engineering ambitions in historic preservation. For the last several years, she has stayed in touch with the Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) company from Waltham, Mass., a national-award-winning engineering firm that designs, investigates, and rehabilitates structures and building enclosures.
“I have recently talked to human resources at SGH, and we are working with several options,” Fox said. “I do not know exactly what they are interested in having me do, but I will be contacted again soon.”
Meanwhile, Fox also has a humanitarian side that wants to put her engineering knowledge to use helping others. She went to Kenya this year on a team of students from the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders as part of a project to develop healthy drinking water for about 3,000 people in the western part of the country, near where President Barack Obama’s relatives live.
“My job there was to teach water-related hygiene,” she says. “I lectured about water hygiene to more than 300 high school students, all in one room, and gave them ways to improve their sanitation procedures. They’re incredibly hospitable, and what I loved about teaching them was they always had so many great questions.”
She credits her experience on the UMass Dance Team for her success in making the Patriots Cheerleaders. In four years on the UMass squad she worked her way up to the practice captain, meaning she basically served as the coach, music director, and choreographer. “The UMass Dance Team kept me in shape and sharp with my dancing,” she said. “I was also able to get the experience of performing at football games and learn several cheers, which I feel further aided me for a position as a Patriots Cheerleader.” (May 2010)