When it comes to football games, there’s always plenty of action on the field, but it’s the cheerleaders who keep the sidelines exciting. For Jets fans, the Flight Crew has become an integral part of game day. Come rain or shine, wins or losses, the enthusiasm of the Jets Flight Crew never falters, and their energy transfers to the tens of thousands of fans that pack MetLife Stadium for games. It’s almost hard to believe that this robust program only started a decade ago, thanks to the persistence and dedication of Director Denise Garvey.
Garvey, a Merrick native and former NFL and NBA cheerleader, has been spearheading the program since its inception. In 2004, she sent an email to the Jets organization, with a business plan to initiate a cheerleading program to support Gang Green. It never gained traction, with the organization saying they were working on other initiatives. Undeterred, she sent them another email in 2006. This time, the Jets were interested.
“You have to dream big,” Garvey said. “If you want something, you have to go after it and believe in it. Believing in it is the biggest thing. It’s one thing to have a goal, but when you believe in it, it gives everything purpose.”
The first season consisted of a 10-person squad who danced during time-outs and quarter-changes, as well as ran flags for touchdowns and field goals. A decade later, the Flight Crew has blossomed into a successful 40-person team that draws approximately 300 hopefuls to auditions at MetLife Stadium each year. The program is on par with other well established teams in the NFL, with their own junior program and swimsuit calendar.
So what does it take to be a Jets cheerleader? According to Garvey, making the squad comes down to a mix of personality and talent.
“We look for talented women who have experience in cheer or dance,” said Garvey. “But more importantly, they should have outgoing personalities because they become ambassadors for the organization. Being well-rounded, outgoing and humble are all qualities of a cheerleader.”
Hard work and dedication also play a big part, as the Flight Crew undergoes weeks of intensive training to make sure every jump, kick, twirl and cheer is perfect. After the auditions in April, training starts in June and goes throughout the summer, with three-hour rehearsals three nights a week. In addition to fitness training and conditioning, the girls learn speciality and sidelines dances, as well as more about the Jets organization.
In addition to her directing duties, Garvey acts as the mastermind behind the choreography of the routines, coming up with every detail—from hair flips to foot placement to how they walk onto the field. This season, Garvey choreographed a routine for more than 100 girls, as the Flight Crew celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting more than 80 alumni cheerleaders to join the 2016 squad for a halftime performance at a Nov. 27 game against the Patriots.
“It was so fun and rewarding. It was a lot of hard work but nice to see everyone who’s ever been in the uniform and part of this family come back and perform on the field for their friends and family and fans,” Garvey said. “It was a standout memory for me.”
Over the years, the squad has featured numerous Long Island girls, and Garvey said she’s always looking for new local talent to come join. The next auditions are in April, and interested dancers can visit www.newyorkjets.com/flight-crew to find out more.
“Some of our strongest cheerleaders have come from Long Island,” Garvey said. “We’re always looking for new talent, and we’re hoping to see a big turnout of Long Island women at this upcoming audition.”