Crysten Glawe’s passion taking her to the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday
This Sunday, the NFL Pro Bowl starts in Las Vegas, Nevada and New Ulm native Crysten Glawe will have one of the best seats at the game.
Glawe will attend as a cheerleader, representing the Washington Commanders. She has worked as a professional cheerleader in Washington, D.C. for several years, the last two years as a squad captain.
For the Pro Bowl, each team with a cheerleader program sends a representative to the game. Typically, the squad votes on who to send. The Commander’s squad chose Glawe as its representative.
“I am very, very honored that my team selected me,” Glawe said.
Her cheerleading career started through her love of music and dance, which began in New Ulm.
Glawe, the daughter of Reed and Mary Jane Glawe of New Ulm, started dancing at a young age but admitted she struggled in her earlier years. At age 4, she initially struggled with memory retention and choreography. It was not long before her mother pulled her out of dance.
In elementary school, Glawe tried a variety of sports and activities including figure skating, volleyball, basketball and softball. By 7th grade, she was attending Cathedral and decided to give dance another try.
Glawe said she always loved music and had been playing the violin with the Suzuki school. The rhythm of the music felt natural to her and she wanted to go back to dancing. She got back into dance through “Just for Kix” and later auditioned for Cathedral’s High School dance team, “The Sonics,” making the team in 8th Grade.
Glawe was able to dance with The Sonics for five years. They came close to winning a state title one year.
She credited her dance coaches Missy Visser and Lisa Drexler for inspiring her to continue dancing after high school, which led to some incredible experiences.
Glawe attended Iowa State University on a dance scholarship. The university dance teams were more competitive, but she learned a great deal.
“From there, I started trying everything,” Glawe said. This led to cheering for a variety of Iowa sports teams. She took a few years off from dance and cheering after moving to London, England to obtain a master’s degree in public policy. With this degree, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill, but found herself missing dance.
Fortunately, she was able to find opportunities with local teams. Glawe started dancing with The Washington Capitals NHL Team. She auditioned for D.C.’s NFL cheer squad but failed to make the cut. Glawe stuck with it and made the team the next year. This will be her sixth year with the team and her second year as captain.
In her time with The Commander’s cheer team, Glawe has seen significant change. She said the squad’s style has changed.
In her rookie year, the team was all women doing pom-pom and kickline style cheers
As the program evolved, The Commanders cheer team moved toward hip-hop and street-style dancing that is native to D.C. The style is sometimes called “Beat Your Feet” and is inspired by go-go style dancing.
Glawe believes that as a whole, NFL cheer squads are moving into a style that reflects the local community. It is also great for getting the fans involved. When local fans see and hear a style of music and dance popular in the city, they get charged up, which is the point of cheerleading.
Glawe said in the last two years, her cheer squad has become a 44-member co-ed team with a “Beat Your Feet” style dance, similar to a hip-hop dance crew.
“It has been great for my personal growth,” Glawe said. It was a different style than she was used to, but she was able to adapt. As one of the older members of the squad, Glawe likes to tell them she is proof you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The life of an NFL cheerleader is all about learning. Glawe said on an average day she is up early in the morning practicing routines to make sure everything is memorized for the game.
For the Pro Bowl, Glawe, traveled to Las Vegas for a full week of rehearsals, working with cheerleaders from other teams to prepare for the competition. She received the choreography in advance, but there are always new routines to work out.
Glawe said most professional NFL cheerleaders have full-time jobs besides cheerleading. For her, it’s on Capitol Hill for a TikTok public policy team.
Glawe described cheerleading as a part-time job, but a full-time commitment. Many of the cheerleaders join the squad because of a shared passion for the sport. Glawe sees cheerleading as a physically demanding sport that is often overlooked.
She said it requires strength, gracefulness, balance and poise; similar to figure skating or synchronized swimming but some people mistake these athletic pursuits for simple activities.
“The whole point of the dance is to make something seem so easy and effortless,” Glawe said. “We’re very convincing at making it look easy.”
Glawe has cherished her time as a professional cheerleader and the wonderful experiences it has brought her. Glawe admitted that in high school she never realized how far a person could go with dancing, but thanks to her background she has been able to travel the world in cheer squads and now has a chance to show off her talents at the Pro Bowl.
This year’s Pro Bowl was revamped, featuring a series of skill competitions leading up to the flag football game between NFLC and AFC players. The Pro Bowl game starts at 2 p.m. CT Sunday, Feb. 5.
(photos by Photo by Taylor Sims, Washington Commanders photographer)