Amy Priddy joined the Rochester Knighthawks dance team for the 2005 season. Then she gave birth to three sons in three years. So the cheerleading thing was fun for the brief time it lasted, right?
Not so fast. Priddy returned to the group for the 2009 season, took on the role of director about four years later and stayed in the position through the 2017 season. It turned out that her boys, all of whom still play lacrosse including as part of the annual Jr NLL tournament, wound up being part of the reason she stayed involved for so long rather than the reason she had to stop.
Her sons loved going to the games with her, and Priddy says that she loved pretty much everything about being a Knighthawks cheerleader and dancer. That much becomes clear when she's asked what she misses about it.
“Everything,” she says. “I miss practicing two hours a week. My entire life wrapped around it. I was on calls or scheduling every single day. I miss the girls. I miss practice, we used to have so much fun at practice. We would get goofy sometimes. I miss the games, the fans, just being in that arena. I miss having my kids watch. I knew exactly where they were sitting every game, I could look up and see them.”
It wasn't just her kids that helped make the experience great for Priddy, though. “Honestly, if you're one of the dancers, one of the best parts is the little kids on the sideline that come and dance with you and grab your pom poms and want your autograph,” she explains. “I had some kids that were cheering next to me from the time they were five years old up until 14 when I left and they're grown now and I still see them.”
Priddy says that adult fans still recognize her, as well, and stop to say hello and talk some lacrosse when they run into her at the grocery store or around town. That's in large part because the cheerleaders didn't just perform at games. They were regulars at events in the community, helping to promote the team and the game of lacrosse in Rochester.
Still, the central element of the job (well, volunteer role is more accurate, since the dancers aren't paid) was performing at games. And those were long days for Priddy, especially once she became the director.
Priddy didn't have much time after wrapping up her day as a high school English teacher to get to the arena. She needed to be there at 4:30 because five o'clock was the only time she and her teammates could have the floor to themselves to rehearse without risking getting dinged by errant balls from the players who started warming up at about 5:30.
Then she would go to the production meeting to find out what the in-game promos were and how many girls the team wanted involved for each. After that meeting, she'd go figure out who would go where, when, during the game, draw up the schedule for it, and to back to share the information with the dance team at 6 pm. Then, at 6:15, they would all be up by the main entrance to the arena to greet fans when the doors were opened and they started streaming in.
Priddy enjoyed preparing to dance and actually appearing on the floor during breaks in the game, but “I'm a sports person, I really love sports,” she points out, so she was glad that they did get to watch some of the game itself. Usually, she says, she was able to watch all of the first quarter, most of the third and the last half of the fourth.
Her sons enjoyed watching the games, too, but may have enjoyed just as much the chances they got to see the players in the locker room just like the children of the players themselves did.
So with all the years she was involved and all the fun she had, what stands out for Priddy from her time with the Knighthawks? Her answer comes quickly.
“We won three championships in a row! Those were so fun.”
She got to celebrate those titles with a bunch of folks who became like another family to her, Priddy says, because the Knighthawks had a core group of women who danced and cheered together for a long time. It was a lot of work, what with the choreography, practice, scheduling for game nights, finding members available and willing to commit their time to community events and fundraising.
But the work was worth it, as becomes apparent in Priddy's response to the question of what she would say to someone who was thinking about following in her footsteps.
“It's going to be one of the best experiences of your life. You'll never get to repeat it. It's unforgettable.”