If you know one thing about Jets fans, it's that they're going to speak their minds. And during Denise Garvey's first season as choreographer and director of the Jets Flight Crew, they voiced a collective groan during pregame, in-game and postgame festivities at the Meadowlands.
"We got only one complaint all year from the fans," Garvey said. " 'Why aren't there more of you?' "
The Flight Crew had 10 members in 2007 after a closed spring audition. That number was kept relatively small because the organization wanted to see how its loyalists would respond to the talented group that performed choreography on the sidelines in addition to running with flags at certain moments of the game.
"Last year was kind of a trial period for us to see how the fans would react," Garvey said. "I didn't really doubt that it would be well-received by the fans and I think there were a lot of people who didn't doubt that it would be well-received by the fans."
The overwhelming response was positive and the Jets have decided to more than double the Crew's roster size to 22. Now for the first time, there will be an open tryout, which the club will host at its practice facility on the campus of Hofstra University starting May 17. Applications can be downloaded on this site and let's just say traffic has been heavy.
"I think it's been up for a week now," Garvey said of the application. "We've had thousands of people view the page with auditions. In five days, we had close to 5,500 hits on the application page and approximately 475 downloads of the application. Now the word is traveling."
Most NFL cheerleading teams consist of anywhere from 20 and 40 members. The Jets will select 21 team members for the 2008 squad at the conclusion of tryouts and the 22nd member will be voted on by Jets fans on www.newyorkjets.com.
"We're going to have two groups of 10 on opposite sides of the field," Garvey said. "Each corner of the field will get the Flight Crew twice per game. If someone's not ready to be on the field and not ready to wear the uniform in front of 80,000 people, then we can have two who can act as alternates. Those people can do in-game promotions and visits and merchandise tent appearances."
Even though the tryouts are in May, Garvey suggests that any Flight Crew hopeful attend one of the three preparatory classes in April.
"The prep courses are designed for the girls who are auditioning or even thinking about auditioning to come and check out what the Flight Crew is all about and see the style of choreography we do on the sidelines," she said. "It will allow the girls to kind of get a feel for what to expect on the audition day."
The Jets have also made it convenient for those interested in showcasing their talents. Garvey will hold prep classes in New Jersey at the Meadowlands on April 12, in Long Island at the team's practice bubble on April 13, and also in New York City at Chelsea Studios on April 16.
"If there are a lot of me's out there, it will be a big turnout," said Garvey, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and New York Knicks City Dancer. "I'm sure there are a lot of people who have really been waiting for this to happen for a while. It's really hard to say because it's so new but based on the hits we've been getting to the site and based on the downloads of the application, I would say it's going to be a pretty good turnout."
It's really 22 spots up for grabs because no spot is guaranteed. The first Crew members did well last year, but they don't get a free pass in May.
"Those 10 girls really made history with the Jets organization. It will never be quite like it was that first year — it will never be quite as intimate and it will never be quite as new," Garvey said. "Only those 10 girls can reflect back on what it was like to be in the inaugural group of this team. Twenty-two girls and 10 girls is a big difference — it's huge."
And it's exactly what the fans demanded. They wanted more of the Flight Crew and the Jets have responded.
"Anytime you add 12 new girls to anything, I think the dynamics change. Each girl who makes the roster will be worthy of being there because they are talented and they are willing to work hard," Garvey said. "We have a new goal, a new team, so it's going to be different."