First Person with Lindsay Shoulders Westbrook ’06

The spirit coordinator and Showgirls director brought the iconic white boots to Horned Frog game day.

First Person with Lindsay Shoulders Westbrook ’06

The spirit coordinator and Showgirls director brought the iconic white boots to Horned Frog game day.

White boots and high kicks are a hallmark of every football game, but the TCU Showgirls also perform during men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and volleyball seasons. Westbrook, a former TCU cheerleader and NBA Dallas Mavericks Dancer, talks about what it was like to have the Showgirls uniform installed at the College Football Hall of Fame and what goes into the squad’s performances.

Lindsay Westbrook was instrumental in bringing the signature white boots to the TCU Showgirls squad. Courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook | Photo by Kelly Williams

Lindsay Westbrook was instrumental in bringing the signature white boots to the TCU Showgirls squad. Courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook | Photo by Kelly Williams

How did the Showgirl uniform end up in the College Football Hall of Fame?

When they opened in Georgia, they reached out and asked to put the uniform in the hall of fame. We said absolutely. We are only one of three college dance teams in there. They are very iconic uniforms and we are very proud of that.

How do TCU Showgirls practice for football games?

One of our big traditions at football, at the end of the game, however many points we have, if we win, that’s how many kicks we do. These past couple years whenever Gary [Patterson, football coach] is just going, going, going, I think, “Can we halt on the offense, please? We are doing great.” Once we get up to 60 points, every time we score, the girls’ eyes get big. There were a couple games we were in the 70s. It is a lot but that is part of our preparation.

Texas heat is always the biggest obstacle, and getting the girls, especially the ones from out of state, acclimated is definitely a huge step for us. One of the biggest things we work on when we’re going into football season is being outside for such long periods of time, plus being able to perform for that length of time.

What is it like to support so many sports?

It’s a full-on year of different events. The biggest overlap is the success of basketball postseason, which is great, overlapping with baseball. That’s been an adjustment. Then this past year we went to the NCAA tournament, which was amazing. There is no offseason for us. You have to really love what you do.

There are about 70 people in the spirit program, including mascots. They’re at everything. They’re at birthday parties, corporate events, orientations. They are super busy throughout the year.

SuperFrog appears a lot. He does so much stuff. He does about 300 events a year. It’s a thing now: If you have a wedding, you’ve got to have SuperFrog. People love SuperFrog.

What is the history of the white showgirl boots?

We got those boots right before we went to the 2010 Fiesta Bowl game. That’s now a part of the TCU Showgirls uniform. It’s all thanks to the Justin Foundation, Justin Boots, and our relationship with them. They have really helped elevate this program. [Justin] customizes everything to their foot.

The TCU Showgirl boots are one of a kind. We went in and designed the toe, the boot. There are so many variations of the cowboy boot that I had no idea. I learned so much. The stitching, the color purple, every detail we were able to design.

The white TCU Showgirls' boots have become an iconic staple to football game day. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

The white TCU Showgirls’ boots have become an iconic part of football game day. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

In the dance world, we are kind of the trendsetters. We have the boots and we did a cowboy uniform. We like to keep it very classy. We’re Texas Christian University and we want to represent well.

How is being a cheerleader or cheerleading different than it was 10 or so years ago when you were a TCU cheerleader?

Back whenever I cheered we were still under Coach [Gary] Patterson. We were going to the Liberty Bowl; that was our bowl game. So obviously the change of conferences, we went into the Mountain West and now we’re in the Big 12. Back when I cheered we were in Conference USA going to a Liberty Bowl. So obviously football changed and [cheering] changes as well.

We always want to make sure our program, both the TCU Showgirls and the cheerleaders, they’re good on their own. We can’t depend on football or basketball being great. Although that is amazing and it always helps, going to different bowl games — the [2010] Fiesta Bowl and the [2011] Rose Bowl — all those fun things obviously help with exposure and TV and all of that.

Our squads speak for itself. It helps to have all that exposure, but the standard has to be raised every single year. We try to maintain that level of greatness.

Whenever I was a student I danced for the Mavs. There’s 40 games a season. Just like men and women’s basketball. Basketball season is really long but it’s fun. Lots of games, lots of performances.

Were you able to keep up with your studies?

Yeah. I think with any athlete or anyone who is on our teams — Showgirls, cheerleaders, mascots — the personality traits they have, they love the time management. Sometimes the busier they are the better it is for them. It’s really good for them because they’re always going, they’re always doing something: There’s a game; there’s an appearance. They’re always on the move doing stuff, so it’s good for them.

That’s a lot to juggle.

It is, it is. Especially for a student who is full time, they have a game and they might have an appearance in the same week. For football games, it’s a whole weekend ordeal. We have band practice on Fridays. It’s an all-day thing on Saturdays. The game day is an all-day affair: [practice] four hours before and a full four-hour game. Their Saturdays are spent in the Carter.

What was it like to juggle school and dancing for the Mavs?

It was a fun time. I loved it. I loved being able to perform. You get there early for the basketball game, get dressed and rehearse. Once tipoff starts, you’re there the full game. Basketball games are shorter than football games and they’re inside.

Somehow I always managed to make it work. I didn’t miss either one [a class final or Mavericks final]. School comes first. For my students we always stress that because that’s the reason they’re here. School always comes first.

Obviously there are a couple times during basketball postseason they do have to miss school. Our students have the best time management. They are able to talk to the professors. TCU professors are great: They also love the students being involved, supporting their school. Usually [students] talk to their teachers and figure it out ahead of time.

Is there more pressure on the spirit teams now that we’re in a more prolific conference?

We always try to maintain the same standards whether we’re in one conference or another. Big 12 teams are not unlike teams from Mountain West. UNLV was amazing. It’s always fun to go postseason and see other dance teams and what they do. That’s always enjoyable for me as a coach and for students when they get that back-and-forth.

We do different things for football and basketball. In football, we started having a big performance every year. A couple of years ago we did [Michael Jackson’s] “Thriller.” We do an all-spirit routine. This past year we did the circus routine. That gives our program exposure and it went crazy on social media. It is a lot of fun.

The kids really enjoy it because it’s something different. It’s a goal to work toward. It gives you a chance to be creative, innovative, do something different. It’s something that our teams do differently. I don’t know of another school who does that. We made it a new tradition. We want all of our routines to be great, but that’s our one routine that has to be over-the-top amazing.

Do you plan all of them?

It’s a long process. Starting with brainstorming, figuring out what’s going on. With the TCU Showgirls, we do the choreography, formations and build off everything. Then cheerleaders are practicing their stunts so there’s lots of levels and lots of things going on. It’s really a chance for some of the individuals to get to do some of their own niche specialty skills. We have girls that can do crazy tumbling and something special, or someone who is really flexible and they can do something. It’s really a chance to spotlight certain people on the team and their amazing individual talents.

Are you the choreographer for the team?

It’s a collaborative effort. Our captains help a lot. It’s like building a story. We’re always trying to build on it. We start with a core routine and we add things along the way, trying to make it bigger and better. We added in the twirlers this year. They were a lot of fun to work with. We are trying to create a great fan experience. We want to enhance the game day experience for our fans and entertain.

It’s so rewarding to see the end product. It’s building the whole time, and you don’t know how it’s going to work. The couple weeks leading up to it and prior to the game, we get both teams in for field staging. You’re getting the timing, the placement and making sure everything flows and everyone hits their marks. Once you see it all put together it’s a lot of fun.

How long does it take to plan one of those large performances?

We’re already starting now [in May]. We’re thinking about what would look great on the field. We start now with the ideas and then build on it. We start with a song or a theme and get the music together. It kind of builds from there. Once we get the core of it, we just add onto it for weeks and months up to it. It’s definitely a progression. It’s definitely something that we build on.

What is your favorite memory as a TCU cheerleader?

The [2002] Liberty Bowl, at the time, was a new stage we hadn’t been to — with all the pep rallies, the big crowds. It’s beyond just TCU fans. I remember Beale Street [in Memphis, Tennessee] being crazy.

I saw on your Instagram that you met Bob Schieffer ’59.

Lindsay Westbrook and Bob Schieffer share a moment on the sidelines at a TCU game. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

Lindsay Westbrook and Bob Schieffer share a moment on the sidelines at a TCU game. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

I love that man so much. When I was in school I met him. This is pre-Bob Schieffer School of Communication. He came and visited. He visits campus often. I met him while I was in school. Every time I meet him I have a different photo. I have different phases of me and Bob.

When TCU went to the College World Series, the TCU Alumni hosted a tailgate. We just chit-chatted for a good 30 minutes. He is just so funny. He said he loved the Showgirl boots. He was just so complimentary of the whole program. That always makes you feel great. He visits often. I saw him on the [football field] sidelines. We email every now and then.

One thing that sticks out to me about Bob Schieffer: He was moderating the presidential debate a couple years ago. I emailed him, “Bob, I love your purple socks.” Right before he got on air he responded and asked how I was doing. I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. What in the world?” I thought it was funny. He always does his cute little purple socks and represents TCU and I just love that about him.

Were you able to meet other celebrities through your work?

We’ve been on [ESPN’s] College GameDay several times. We’re usually performing or in the background. We’re the behind-the-scenes performance. We’re not in the mix of getting to meet the celebrities.

As a Mavs dancer?

I remember being on the court and Shaquille O’Neal being on the visiting team and how large he was. He is so big. I was just wondering how in the world is someone that tall. Huge, huge. I’m 5 feet, 3 or 4 inches, so the difference in height — I was just thinking, “Oh, my goodness.”

Why did you decide to audition for the Mavs dancers?

I went to a game and I thought it was great and I wanted to do that. I cheered at TCU. I have a cheer and dance background growing up. I’m from Sherman, Texas, and I wasn’t on the drill team. I was a cheerleader in high school. People come from different backgrounds. Drill teams usually go on to be Showgirls.

I had a lot of friends who were on the TCU Showgirls at the time. I chose to cheer because that’s what I was most involved in coming into college. I decided to try out for the Mavs Dancers and it worked out. A lot of our girls go on to dance at the professional level. Sheridan is a Mavs dancer. We have lots of people who go on to dance at the professional level.

Do you take pride in or encourage Showgirls to dance professionally?

If anybody comes to me and wants to know more about it, I’m always wanting to help them do that. You can only dance for a certain amount of time. If they want to continue that and that’s their passion, I’m completely supportive of that and I think it’s great.

Most of them are graduated and have amazing degrees. Their time management is ridiculous. People who come out of our program are so motivated. They’re able to juggle so much. I think it’s beneficial once they get out in the real world. Any employer should want one of our team members: They’re so motivated and they can get so much done.

What is it like to try out for the Mavs dancers?

The sheer number is probably the hardest part. It is a process: The preliminary tryout where you’re dancing in front of a panel of judges. You go through and do a freestyle. After that they teach you a dance combination on the spot and you have to perform it on the spot. They make cuts along the way.

Then there’s finals week. It’s a weeklong prep, an every-night thing doing routine after routine and learning different choreography. Then they announce the final team. There were over 300 or 350 when I auditioned. Our final number was 18. We had 18 on our team. You have to try out every year. I somehow made it.

Is it just based on dancing or are there personality aspects?

Like any job, there is talent and there are also individual qualities that help as well.

How many people try out for the TCU Showgirls?

TCU Showgirls line up for high kicks at the Nov. 4, 2017 game against Texas. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

TCU Showgirls line up for high kicks at the Nov. 4, 2017, game against Texas. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

We have an amazing team. They’re so great. Usually we have a pool of over 100. That number shot up, it definitely increased after the Rose Bowl. We saw significant numbers increase after that. It’s been pretty consistent since then. We’re really lucky. We have amazing supporters. Justin Boots is one of our biggest supporters. The Justin Foundation is very supportive of our program. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them or be where we are.

We are kind of the leaders with the uniforms. And now with Instagram and social media, people pick up on things. We’re kind of the trendsetters. We were the originators of the very cowboy-flair type of uniform for our dance team.

Do they practice in those boots?

They have practice boots. They are a little heavier than a jazz shoe. They practice in them. They kick in them. That’s part of our preparation going into football season.

How do the Showgirls stay looking fabulous in the Texas heat?

I don’t know. They always look fabulous. I don’t know, they just do a great job. Somehow they still look great in that 80- to 90-degree weather. They are tough girls, I will say that. Some of the most memorable games for them are the rain games. It’s just a different atmosphere to perform in. It’s funny, some of them say those are their best memories: dancing in the rain.

Do you give them strategies for when the team is not doing so well?

Win or lose they’re still cheering on the team. The show goes on. We do all the routines the same. There’s the performance aspect there. I think they genuinely really love what they do.

Is cheerleading a sport?

I think the cheerleaders are athletes; I don’t believe cheerleading is a sport. They are 100 percent athletes. There’s no way that you can flip over with no hands and do a tumble across the floor, build the structures they do without being very, very athletic. I do not think cheerleading is a sport.

Is dance a sport?

I do not think dance is a sport. It’s an art and it’s a performance. There have been breakthroughs in the cheerleading world to make it more of a sport. But we do not compete. At TCU, our cheer and dance do not compete. We are focused on the game-day atmosphere. We want to make sure it is an enjoyable experience for the fans and that’s our goal.

Lindsay Westbrook is TCU's spirit coordinator and Showgirls director. Photo by Michael Clements

Lindsay Westbrook is TCU’s spirit coordinator and Showgirls director. Photo by Michael Clements

For a typical cheer routine in competition, you’re combining gymnastics, dance and stunts. I don’t think anybody can watch a routine like that and say that they’re not athletes. You have to have a talent and it is very difficult. They make it look easy. That is the whole point. It takes them years to develop the skills they have in order to make the team. Doing a backflip is against all odds with gravity. Stand there and do a backflip with no hands. It’s tough. Especially for females. With males they have the height.

For cheer, we have a coed team and an all-girls team. They both cheer football. For the cheer team, they cheer at volleyball, men and women’s basketball, and football (home and away). For the cheerleaders, sometimes there will be a volleyball game and a football game on the same day.

A dancer who makes it look easy — that’s the point. You’re supposed to make it look easy. A lot of people think it’s easy and then they learn it. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s the same thing with basketball. Maybe somebody makes dunking look super simple and then once you try it you realize it’s not.

Like any other sport, from an outsider’s perspective, it’s supposed to look easy. Dance and cheer, these girls have been training for a long time. Some of them are naturally talented and some of them have been training for a long time. They are very talented.

Why does the world need Showgirls?

The fans who come to our sporting events need the TCU Showgirls because they’re very entertaining, they’re super talented, they work extremely hard to put on a great performance. We always want to create a great atmosphere for the fans.

Do you think the Showgirls have a significant role in the sports that they are performing for? How attached are TCU Showgirls and TCU Football? Is that like peanut butter and jelly?

I think it’s definitely an expectation, being at a football game. Lots of young girls look up to the Showgirls. They’re great role models. What is a football game without the TCU Showgirls and the cheerleaders and SuperFrog? We are an essential part of the fan base, the fan game day experience. We’re always trying to keep the fans involved. The “Go Frogs” chant, the Riff Ram chant. Even with the band catching on, they are always doing some neat new call-to-action cheer.

Do the Showgirls have a say in the songs they perform to?

It’s a collaborative effort. Our captains have a lot of say and create a lot of the routines. It’s a team effort. Sometimes we even break into groups and do choreography teams and come up with different new routines within the teams.

Why is it important for the TCU Showgirls and cheerleaders to be involved in the community?

That’s part of what being a cheerleader and being a dancer is. Those are some of the most rewarding jobs. A lot of the feedback I get are the little things— a 4-year-old’s birthday party.

Little things like that are what make this experience so wonderful for them. Being out in the community, you’re ambassadors for TCU and you want to get out there and do lots of community events. With any event, it’s great to get the teams in the community. We do different community service projects each semester. We decide that as a team.

SuperFrog waves a banner at the NIT Final in 2017. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

SuperFrog waves a banner at the NIT Final in 2017. Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics

What was it like at the NIT Final at Madison Square Garden last year?

Winning in Madison Square Garden was a lot of fun. Being in New York was a lot of fun. They did a good job of marketing in Times Square. You could see TCU basketball players up on the big screens in Times Square and that was really neat to see.

What has been your favorite postseason?

Rose Bowl was amazing. Rose Bowl was a lot of fun. The comeback in San Antonio [the 2016 Alamo Bowl] was a lot of fun. That was pretty memorable. To experience that turnaround, you still have to cheer no matter what’s happening in the game. You still have to keep the crowd going. Then the momentum changed and the second half was all history. It was a really fun game to be on the sidelines and experience.

Why did you decide to come back to TCU to coach and direct?

I think if anyone has the opportunity to come back to TCU they would jump at the opportunity. Coach [Jamie] Dixon did the same thing. I think it’s a wonderful place to work. It’s my alma mater. My husband went to TCU. I met my husband here at TCU. It’s obviously a lot of fun for us to stay involved and to do what I love.

Do you think feminism has a place in cheer and dance?

I’m all about girl power. Cheerleading, we also have a coed team, so not just all girls. I think the inclusiveness is important.

Professional dancers Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies made NFL history in March when they became the league’s first male cheerleaders, as part of the Los Angeles Rams squad.

I remember that happening. The Cowboys have a hip-hop group, and they say that they are the first male cheerleaders. They’re the Rhythm and Blue Dancers under [NFL] Cowboys. Cheerleading is confusing to a lot of people, because you have the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders but they’re more dancers. They claim to be the first. When the LA Rams came out and said they were the first, the Cowboys said no, we were the first.

Lindsay Westbrook and her children Savannah and Dutch. Westbrook said the family is purple through and through. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

Lindsay Westbrook and her children, Savannah and Dutch. Westbrook said the family is purple through and through. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

Some teams have men running flags or involved in stunts. Do you think it’s beneficial to have men on the squad?

Male cheerleaders help out tremendously. You can build so many more stunts with a male underneath it. The strength definitely helps. You can build more pyramids with less people and bigger and better and higher.

Your son’s name is Dutch. Is he named after TCU’s Dutch Meyer ’22?

He’s actually named after my husband, Bret Austin [Westbrook ’07]. But we call him Dutch, after Dutch Meyer. We are a big purple TCU family through and through.

Lindsay Westbrook and her daughter Savannah. A former Showgirl had Savannah's tiny Showgirls outfit custom made. Courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

Lindsay Westbrook and her daughter, Savannah. A former Showgirl had Savannah’s tiny Showgirls outfit custom made. Courtesy of Lindsay Westbrook

Who made that tiny outfit for Savannah?

Brittany Barbeau ’14, a former Showgirl, came to my baby shower and brought that as a gift. She had someone make it, and it is so cute. A lot of my captains over the years I’m still close with. We talk on a regular basis.

The captain that I’m closest with, we had our first years together. She was a freshman when I was in my first year coaching the program. She was with me for four years. She’ll still come around and help. She’ll come in on game days. Her real job, she’s an attorney in Fort Worth. She just loves this a lot and comes to help and critique.

— Trisha Spence

Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.