Working her way up: UH student becomes Texans Cheerleader
Despite her previous experience, Shannon Baty did not expect to become a Houston Texans Cheerleader.
“It was really random, because I actually cheered (at UH) for three years. After my third year, my body was really worn out because I’ve danced and cheered all my life. So, I didn’t want to cheer anymore. I just wanted to focus on getting school done so I wouldn’t be a year behind,” Baty said.
“Two months before tryouts, I just decided I’d try out for Texans. It was totally out of the blue. I got really lucky and ended up getting the position.”
Every year, more than 1,200 women compete to become a Texans Cheerleader. The first round of tryouts is televised, and fans take a role in deciding who gets a spot. For Baty, the pressure of fans and media attention only makes the process more exciting.
“The first round is live stream so you get to watch while we’re trying out. It’s probably one of the best rounds because it’s really fun,” Baty said. “We have our super fans and some local news reporters, and they’re our judges so it’s really fun that the fans get to decide if they want to see you on the field or not… it’s so stressful and a lot of work.”
Everyone has to try out again in order to continue cheering — no one has a secure position on the team.
“It’s actually harder to make it back,” Baty said. “You just have to make sure you’ve improved from last season. There could be a girl who looks like you, and if she’s better, she’ll take your spot. You got to make sure you’re keeping up.”
Aside from cheering, the girls are required to have full-time jobs or be enrolled full-time at a university.
“They want you working for something…they don’t want you to give up everything you’re doing just to be a Texans cheerleader,” Baty said.
Baty fulfills more than one of the requirements with her time spent as a broadcast journalism student and coach.
“I’m a student, and I’m a cheer coach,” Baty said. “Being a cheer coach while being a Texan is inspiring because these kids look up to me…they don’t realize that they’re inspiring me at the same time.”
The time spent with the Texans is useful for Baty’s career as a broadcast journalist.
“Right now, I’m the one being interviewed, but one day I want to be the interviewer,” Baty said. “I get to learn from some of the best people in the industry being a Texan Cheerleader, so it’s a good tool for getting in the direction of doing what you want to do.”
Balancing her responsibilities can be daunting, but Baty says she does so by communicating with her professors at UH.
“I always make sure I go and talk to my professors and explain my situation because I don’t want them thinking that I just skip class. I always tell my professors when I have to go to a game, and I ask my fellow students for what I missed in class that day,” said Baty. “They’re very understanding. I’m a full-time student, and I’m keeping up with my schoolwork at the same time as getting to experience this unique opportunity. They understand that I’m at least reaching out to the professor.”
Recently she was awarded the Judy A. Harvey scholarship.
“I wrote about what I do, including school, cheer and coaching,” Baty said.” I ended up getting the scholarship, which was pretty rewarding because they reached out to me.”