FROM CHEERS TO LEADER

For­mer Pa­tri­ots cheer­lead­ing cap­tain, R.I.’s Brit­tany Dickie is named dance trainer for squad

Pawtucket Times - - BLACKSTONE VALLEY - By BREN­DAN McGAIR bm­c­gair@paw­tuck­et­times.com Fol­low Bren­dan McGair on Twit­ter @BWMcGair03

FOXBORO – When does a cheer­leader take a pause from cheer­ing? When Su­per Bowl his­tory is un­fold­ing be­fore your very eyes and it’s your fi­nal game with the squad.

Brit­tany Dickie’s last of­fi­cial act as a New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots cheer­lead­ing cap­tain was sim­ple. The Woonsocket na­tive and 2010 Mount St. Charles grad­u­ate told her fel­low cheer­lead­ers to place their pom-poms by their sides and watch the cli­matic stages of last Fe­bru­ary’s epic come­back in Hous­ton. No one in­side NRG Sta­dium would be look­ing in their di­rec­tion any­way, was Dickie’s ra­tio­nale.

Stand­ing along­side the Pa­tri­ots’ end zone – James White’s ti­tle-clinch­ing score saw him fight to break the plane of the Fal­cons’ end zone – Dickie made sure to soak up the at­mos­phere and ride the win­ning wave af­ter New Eng­land clinched Su­per Bowl LI. She re­mem­bers fall­ing to the ground and mak­ing an an­gel out of the clouds of con­fetti that had fallen.

The Pa­tri­ots have a fouryear term limit for their cheer­lead­ers with the 25year-old Dickie ex­haust­ing all her el­i­gi­bil­ity af­ter last sea­son. It was an in­cred­i­ble ride, one that fea­tured two Su­per Bowl ti­tles and over­seas trips that wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble had she not made the squad in her first at­tempt in 2013 and kept com­ing back for more over the next three years.

“It’s a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence,” Dickie said. “Once it’s gone, you want it back in the worst way.”

Even though Dickie wanted to keep liv­ing in the cheer­lead­ing mo­ment that had be­come sec­ond na­ture, it was time to look to the fu­ture. For­tu­nately for this Moun­tie alum, she didn’t have to dwell about a life with­out cheer­lead­ing for very long. The op­por­tu­nity to re­main with the Pa­tri­ots was im­mi­nent.

A few weeks af­ter New Eng­land cap­tured the fran­chise’s fifth Lom­bardi Tro­phy, she was of­fered the full-time po­si­tion as dance trainer by cheer­lead­ing head coach Tracy Sor­manti. As Dickie noted, she still gets to live the cheer­lead­ing dream.

“It hit me hard that my years with the Pa­tri­ots were over. It be­came my whole life,” Dickie said when reached ear­lier this week. “Then Tracy called to say that a po­si­tion had opened up and how she thought I would be per­fect for it.

“I’m even more in­volved than be­fore when I was on the team,” she added. “I ac­tu­ally love be­ing the dance trainer more than a cheer­leader be­cause I have more of a say in what the girls do. They look up to me and ask ques­tions that they prob­a­bly won’t have asked be­fore. In a way, I’m al­most like their big sis­ter.”

To go from the game-day rou­tine of makeup and curl­ing the hair to mak­ing sure all 33 girls on this year’s squad are in sync and func­tion­ing as one co­he­sive unit is Dickie’s way of pay­ing it for­ward. She’s lived through the de­mands and the time con­straints that go with be­ing a cheer­leader for a pop­u­lar NFL fran­chise. Now she’s in a po­si­tion to of­fer guid­ance.

“I’m in a Pa­tri­ots’ T-shirt on game-days, watch­ing and let­ting them know what they need to do or when a dance is com­ing up,” Dickie said. “I still have the best seat in the house, which is awe­some.”

For the first two years of her New Eng­land cheer­lead­ing odyssey, Dickie was busy fin­ish­ing up the re­quire­ments for her dance ma­jor de­gree at Dean Col­lege, where she grad­u­ated from in 2015. Just as note­wor­thy, she sur­vived the gru­el­ing rig­ors of try­outs and en­sured that she got to spend her Sun­days on the side­lines at Gil­lette Sta­dium.

“Truth­fully, I never thought I would get to make the team on the first try. There were ladies who had been try­ing to make the squad for years,” Dickie said. “The au­di­tion process is the most stress­ful thing I will ever do in my life.”

There have been plenty of perks along the way. Af­ter the 2013 sea­son, Dickie rep­re­sented the NFL in China. There were trips to Can­cun and Aruba for pho­to­shoots for the swim­suit cal­en­dar. Af­ter each Su­per Bowl, Dickie and her fel­low cheer­lead­ers re­ceived a com­mem­o­ra­tive pen­dent.

The most trea­sured pos­ses­sion from Dickie’s four years with the Pats was the ring she re­ceived with four di­a­monds on it, sym­bol­iz­ing each year she spent as a cheer­leader. When she joined the squad in 2013, she was one of 13 mem­bers in her rookie class. She wound up be­ing one of three to see all four years through.

“If it wasn’t for the Pa­tri­ots, I wouldn’t have been able to do the types of things or visit the places that I did,” she said. “It’s helped me grow as a woman and I guess al­lowed me to be­come a leader now.”

The Pa­tri­ots cheer­lead­ers will prac­tice twice per week. On those days, it’s Dickie’s job to teach the as­signed chore­og­ra­phy to the squad. There’s a lot of home-based work that re­quires her at­ten­tion. Think along the lines of Pa­tri­ots head coach Bill Belichick break­ing down film – with more smil­ing.

“We’ll get pictures that de­pict every move. If a pic­ture shows that one head is off, we’ll fo­cus on that and how we can make it bet­ter for the next game,” Dickie said. “I love see­ing their growth. When you’re on the team, you don’t see it as much. Now that I’m on the other side, I see them al­ways try­ing their best. It’s such a good group of ladies. Everyone is so re­spect­ful.”

Cheer­lead­ing has been in Dickie’s blood for as long as she can re­mem­ber. Her par­ents, Wil­liam and Karen, are co-coaches for the Mount cheer­lead­ing squad.

“I was born into cheer­lead­ing. Like it or not, I had to cheer,” Dickie said with a laugh.

When time per­mits, Dickie will re­turn into her alma mater and of­fer point­ers and tips to the cur­rent Mount cheer­lead­ers. She was a Moun­tie cheer­leader for all four years.

“They think I’m a celebrity,” Dickie said, who’s the sub­ject of a se­nior project at Mount that cen­ters on what it’s like to be a Pa­tri­ots cheer­leader. “Hope­fully they’re one day in a po­si­tion where they can try­out.”

Down the road, Dickie would like to open her own dance stu­dio that specif­i­cally caters to those with spe­cial needs.

“I want to max­i­mize their pas­sion for dance,” she said.

For now, she’s go­ing to cher­ish the bond she still has with her sec­ond fam­ily in Foxboro. As Dickie will at­test, there’s life af­ter cheer­ing for New Eng­land’s fa­vorite foot­ball team.

“I can’t tell you how much I love what I do right now,” Dickie said.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat | lmzart­works.com

Woonsocket na­tive Brit­tany Dickie, a New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots cheer­leader from 2013 to 2016, is pic­tured dur­ing a 2016 home game at Gil­lette Sta­dium in Foxbor­ough. This sea­son the Mount St. Charles grad­u­ate is work­ing as a dance trainer and coach for the squad.

Brit­tany Dickie

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