IRVING -- With the eighth season of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team set to premiere on CMT on Sept. 6, we made a trip to the team's headquarters in Valley Ranch to drop in on the America's Sweethearts training camp.
The CMT cameras were rolling, capturing all of the action in the cheerleaders' studio and outside on the turf field adjacent to the Dallas Cowboys practice fields. Since the Cowboys players are still out in Oxnard, Calif., preparing for the upcoming season, the cheerleaders had the Valley Ranch complex to themselves.
"Whenever we are in auditions and training camp, we are filming for our show Making the Team," said Sydney Durso, a veteran DCC going into her sixth season. "You are very aware that the cameras are there and sometimes for television purposes you may have to perform a certain routine again, but everything is real."
The process of selecting this year's squad began in May with nearly 500 hopefuls arriving for auditions at Cowboys Stadium, followed by the final auditions where the 32 returning veterans joined the 54 ladies who advanced past the semis. Training camp is where DCC Director Kelli Finglass and choreographer Judy Trammell get an up close and personal look at the ladies vying to make the team.
"From the first time I auditioned up to now, it has been an absolute emotional rollercoaster," said Kelsey Lauren, returning for her second season with the DCC. "I started out extremely nervous and balancing the stress of learning over 30 new routines with balancing a full-time job. I feel that I went from having a lot of anxiety to now I know what my goals are and I know what I need to do to get there."
For the 47 women who endure the two month training camp, the emotional and physical intensity is taken to a whole new level. Training camp began the week after finals -- the ladies have approximately five days to square away their living situations because many of them have come to DFW from all over the world -- and took place at AT&T Stadium, the football stadium at UTA and Valley Ranch. The schedule was Monday-Friday from 7 p.m. until they finish. The ladies would arrive around 5:30 or 6 to warm up and then start between 6:30-7 and, with no specified ending time, they usually finished around 10 p.m. On nights with the CMT cameras around, some sessions ran past midnight.
"Potentially going into my third season, training camp does not feel any different," said veteran DCC Brittney Schram. "I don't know if it's a mix of all of the nervous energy, if it's contagious or you're just wanting to do better than the year before. I still get butterflies and I still have what I call 'rookie mentality' because if you get complacent for even a moment, they can sense it."
The process for selecting the team is different every year with Kelli and Judy sitting the ladies down at the end of every practice -- known as 'Pink and Blue' with the vets in blue on one side and rookies in pink on the other side -- and the end of camp is not a set date or number of girls, but rather when it is determined they have the best of the best. When they are confident that the team is set, Kelli will announce it at the end of that particular practice.
"A big misconception is when people ask how many girls they are going to cut or take," Schram said. "There's no set number, they can take however many they want and your only competition in training camp is yourself. Only you can take yourself out of the game. It can become a head game so you have to stay focused."
The final 2013 squad was released to the ladies on Friday evening, with the rest of the world learning whose dreams came true beginning Sept. 6 on CMT. To get a taste of what the DCC TV show is all about, you can view the Season 7 finale here.
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