UPDATE: Did you see the season 11 premiere of “DCC: Making the Team” last week? If so, then you'll enjoy these insider looks at the auditions from last spring. These amazing women are chasing their dreams for coveted spots for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. This season, covering the 2016 Auditions, is sure to be a dramatic and exhilarating road for the DCC hopefuls, so don't miss your chance to cheer them on. The show airs on CMT at 8 p.m. central time on Thursdays. Join the conversation at


We’re counting down to the third and final round of 2016 auditions and here’s what I can tell you about the first two rounds: wow!  The caliber of competition is really strong this year. If last Sunday’s semifinals are a true indication, I can promise you that Saturday’s Finals will be dynamite.

Yes, I know that I’ve written the same thing every year in my 15 seasons as a DCC judge: the level of dance/skill/technique jumps up a notch every year. But it’s really true. That’s why I’m expecting Saturday to be among the most competitive rounds we’ve ever witnessed.

Before looking ahead to the Final Round, let’s review what happened in Rounds 1 & 2.

In Round 1, the ‘Freestyle’ portion of the audition process, it was a total of about four hours on the dance floor to go through all contestants, #1 through #525. It was a large and diverse group representing 31 different U.S. states. We have four different countries represented in the 2016 auditions: Japan, Australia, Canada and Taiwan. Actually, there were two contestants from Japan (and, yes, they did really, really well and easily sailed into Round 2!).

There were 67 contestants who auditioned in the past but did not made the squad. They returned in 2016 to try again!  Two of the contestants are daughters of former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Two are actual former DCC squad members…one of them is 39 years old; she is re-auditioning nearly 20 years after first making the squad.  

I know that most football fans think that DCC member are college age girls who cheered in high school or college. But the truth is that most of the DCC hopefuls come from a dance background, not a cheerleading background. And even if they have dance as a common interest, their careers and/or educational backgrounds are diverse.

Here’s a small sample of the various career/workforce/educational backgrounds of contestants in Round 1: 27 year old speech pathologist from Waco who speaks fluent Chinese; 33 year old mineral analyst; a gymnastics teacher from Hampton, Virginia; a Zumba instructor from West Virginia who has a doctorate in kinesiology; a girl from Chandler, Arizona who graduates from high school this coming weekend; a young woman descended from African royalty who lives in Maryland and works as an early childhood specialist; a first grade teacher from Arizona; a chef at The Cheesecake Factory; a technical writer for Southwest Airlines; a 26 year old lawyer; a 30 year old gymnastics coach from Illinois; a professional makeup artist; the young woman who moved to North Texas from Rockford, Illinois where she used to work at the car assembly plant; a preschool teacher from Miami, FL; a preschool teacher from San Antonio;  a 19 year old dance instructor from Orange County, CA; a 19 year old from Denver, CO who works at a ski resort; a hairstylist from Fresno, CA; a marketer at Frito Lay; a mother of 2 from Palm Beach, Florida; a social studies teacher from Arkansas who, the previous day, received her master’s degree; a 27 year old from Buffalo, NY who teaches autistic children; a doctor, originally from Taiwan, who now lives in North Texas; she’s also an author; a graphic designer from Colleyville, TX; a professional ballroom dance instructor from Houston; a professional cake decorator from Georgetown, TX; a nurse in Ft Worth (31 years old); a mechanical engineer from Las Vegas, Nevada; a young woman who works at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital; criminal justice student at University of Colorado; and a math and pre-law student from Virginia Tech.

That’s just a small sampling.

Oh, I almost forgot. Other contestants included: the owner of a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise; a criminal lawyer from Los Angeles who works for the government; a biomedical engineer, originally from Utah, who works at St. Jude’s; an oil & gas attorney from Dallas; a 6th grade math teacher from Vermilion, Ohio; and a student at the New York Institute of Photography.

Again, that’s not everyone. Those are just some of the careers/education that I jotted down in my notes.

You want a well-educated group?  Come to DCC Auditions because we’ve got bright minds from some of the top schools in the country.

I jotted down the following schools: University of Alabama, Appalachian State, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Cal State-Fullerton, Central Oklahoma, Colorado, Dallas Baptist University, Georgia, University of Houston, Incarnate Word (San Antonio, TX), Lamar University (Beaumont, TX), LSU, University of Louisville, University of Memphis, Michigan State, Mississippi (Ole Miss), Missouri (Mizzou), Montana, UNLV, North Carolina, University of North Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Point Park University (Pittsburgh, PA), St Louis University, SMU, TCU, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-Pan American, UT-Rio Grande Valley, Texas State, Texas Tech, Utah, Utah State, and Virginia Tech.

Of those schools listed above, several had their graduation ceremonies on the same day as Round 1 of 2016 DCC Auditions (May 14th). In fact, contestants from UT-Arlington, Baylor, and Arkansas mentioned that their graduations were that night.

It’s always interesting to note the number of cheerleaders from other professional teams that audition for the DCC. There were contestants who’ve previously cheered for the: Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL), Miami Dolphins (NFL), San Diego Chargers (NFL), Tampa Bay Bucs (NFL), Detroit Pistons (NBA), Charlotte Bobcats (NBA), Dallas Mavericks (NBA), Los Angeles Clippers (NBA), Portland Trailblazers (NBA), and San Antonio Spurs (NBA). There were also pro cheerleaders from teams in other leagues, such as the Arena Football League and minor league hockey teams.

The largest majority of contestants were from Texas, of course, but we always have several from California. North Carolina was particularly well-represented this year (I think there were at least six contestants from that state).

If you’re from out of state, let’s see if your state was represented in Round 1: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Not every school, job, or home state is listed above. As a judge, I try to jot down notes about each contestant’s background. But I only know what the contestant tells the judges when she introduces herself before her dance routine. So I apologize if a school or career is not listed above.

Of all the young women who took part in Round 1, a total of only 104 advanced to Round 2 which is Semifinals.

Round 2 took place the following day, on Sunday, May 15th.  So the girls had less than 24 hours after Round 1 to return to the stadium and start Round 2.

The biggest difference between Rounds 1 & 2 is the choreography. Round 1 is “freestyle,” so there’s no choreography to learn. In fact, the girls don’t even know which song will be played when they’re on the dance floor.

In Round 2, the morning session is spent on the playing field at AT&T Stadium. The contestants are taught a combination (usually eight 8-counts) that is typical DCC choreography/style. They are also taught the DCC Kick Line.  They have around 3 hours to learn and rehearse. By the early afternoon, the contestants are back up on the AT&T Stadium plaza level, on the dance floor in front of the judges. They go through the routine and the kick line twice, back-to-back.  

I was very impressed by this year’s group of Semifinalists. They did a great job in learning the combination quickly. In the past, it seems like we had more girls get ‘lost’ on the dance floor. This year’s group of Semifinalists was very strong. Very few got “lost” and many showed great technique and showmanship.

As judges, our score sheets are different for round 2. The criteria on our score sheets include: beauty, appearance, showmanship, ability to learn, kick, and splits. Those final three criteria are added for Round 2. We make notes in our columns under each criteria, then write a final “Yes,” “Maybe” or “No” at the end of our sheet. “Yes,” I think she can be a DCC. “Maybe,” I can’t decide but would like to bring her back for the final round. Or “No,” please try again next year.

There was a particular country music star that made this year’s judging a lot more fun. Neal McCoy once again served as a DCC judge. Neal is a huge DCC fan. He has been on many USO Tours in previous years, working side-by-side with DCC members as they visit U.S. military troops around the globe. Neal knows a lot about showmanship, which is an important criterion we use to judge DCC hopefuls, but he also knows that a DCC must be ‘the full package’. They can’t just be a pretty face or a good dancer.  They need to be smart. They need to be able to communicate with people of all kinds. They need to be able to represent the Cowboys organization as well as our entire community when they travel abroad.

Neal also is a hoot. He’s funny as heck. Sometimes on his judge’s sheet, his ‘notes’ under ‘beauty’ or ‘appearance’, he will simply write “hot!!!”  I guess he’s representing every red-blooded American male, right?

Of the 104 semifinalists, we basically cut the size of that group in half. Those who survived Rounds 1 & 2 will return to AT&T Stadium this Saturday, May 21st for Round 3. That’s when they’ll get their first look at the returning DCC veterans. Every veteran must re-audition every year. Their spots on the squad are not automatically given to them the following season.  They have to audition every year. But the returning veterans skip to Round 3.

I love Round 3 because it consists of two distinct parts: the solo routines, and the afternoon combo/kick line.

In the solo routines, you see each contestant’s personality. They choose their own choreography and their own song and their own costume. In the afternoon session, they perform the same combo/kick line as we saw in Round 2. The returning veterans are taught this year’s combo on Wednesday, so they have just two days to rehearse.

There are 23 returning veterans in 2016. We usually invite 40 to maybe 45 contestants to training camp. Even if every returning veteran survives the final cut, that means there will be around 20 to 22 open spots for rookies. That’s a lot of new blood. And the competition on Saturday is going to be intense. I can’t wait!!!!