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Thursday, May 24, 2018

A New Ben-Gal Role for Highlands Graduate

Reynolds to Focus on Leadership Role in Fall for Ben-Gals
Steve France Photo. Highlands Woodfill Elementary teacher Sam Reynolds will be back on the sidelines as a Ben-Gal for the third season this fall.

Cincinnati Ben-Gals Director of Cheerleading Charlotte Simons likes to see cheerleaders ask what they can do better.

Simons describes it as a "sign of a perpetual winner and overachiever." Simons said Cincinnati Ben-Gal Samantha Reynolds constantly does that. The 2013 Highlands graduate, former Northern Kentucky University dancer, current Middle School Dance Team Coach and Woodfill Elementary teacher just made the squad for a third season.

"She is an overall total pro," Simons said. "She is humble, beautiful and very intelligent. Her work on the field is stellar and her life off the field is exemplary. She works in the community and donates her time to helping people be the best that they can be."

The first thing Reynolds had to do was make it through the process a third time. Simons and Reynolds agreed sometimes do not make the squad again as the result of complacency.

"It is a way to keep everyone motivated as this job requires a lot of energy and intestinal fortitude," Simons said. "We always hope vets will make the cut each year they try out, but it is not a given. The best of the best are chosen, and each year requires a tryout including interviews. They earn it as rookies do. But because of the process, the ladies have a lot of pride in making the team because they know they earned it."

Reynolds said she is in constant communication with Simons and the Ben-Gal coaches. Reynolds said the Ben-Gals have preseason interviews with the coaches to decide what to focus on and reflect on them in postseason interviews. The coaches focused on her fitness last year, specifically lifting weights. Reynolds credited that with making her a stronger dance on the field. The focus is more on leadership this season.

"They said we feel like you're doing great. You're doing everything we need you to do," Reynolds said. "We really want to lean on you in leadership so we want to make sure you want that before we start putting you in those positions. By your third season, you know what the coaches want. You know what they're looking for. You know what the total package NFL cheerleader should look like and act like."

Reynolds said National Football League cheerleaders are expected to be more than just good dancers. Reynolds credited the captains from her first two seasons in Tina Rigdon and Sarah Livesay in being great examples in helping her get to her position.
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"The biggest thing is leading by example. It's really hard to follow a leader when you don't see them as putting in the team and effort as they're asking you to," Reynolds said. "I was fortunate to have two captains my first two years that were always giving 100 percent effort. They were always on top of their fitness game, good representatives in the community. They were always reliable with events. The coaches really relied on them. I've been fortunate in both cases to have someone that really did resemble the entire NFL cheerleader package - all that it means to be a successful NFL cheerleader."

One event Reynolds enjoys volunteering at is the Christmas Party at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. She made it there in both her first two seasons on the Ben-Gals.

"They have kids as patients that can't all come down to the actual Christmas party in the banquet hall," Reynolds said. "They broadcast on the TV Network in the hospital like a game show type thing. So we've gone down and we work the Christmas Party for most of it playing games with the kids and giving out Christmas presents. But then part of it we get to be on their TV broadcast for the kids that are in their rooms and kind of interact with them. They get to send in questions, act like they're there interacting with us."

Reynolds said the team practices twice a week. The Ben-Gals work out the last half hour and the trainer comes to practice to prepare them for the monthly fitness test. The Ben-Gals can go work out at Terry Bryan Wellness and Training in Kenwood. The trainer also posts workouts on a private Facebook group.

Stories are sometimes told about pro cheerleaders losing their spots on the team because they could not keep up physically. Reynolds said the Ben-Gals have to be able to pass fitness tests such as running two miles in 16 minutes. But with the Ben-Gals, it is not about weight alone.

"Our coaches and trainers believe weight is not good indicator of fitness because muscle mass weighs so much more," Reynolds said. "We actually do Body Mass Index (BMI) so we don't have a target body fat percentage to be on the team or make the field. The way the contract is written is basically just overall health and fitness. A lot of the girls that are the most fit on our team weigh the most because they have the most muscle. We have a meeting with our trainer once a month. She looks at the overall package."

Reynolds is aware of the negative publicity NFL cheerleaders have received in outlets such as the Washington Post and USA Today in recent weeks. But Reynolds said she's not experienced anything like what's been told in those stories.

"I do it as a hobby. It's not my career so if I'm ever in a situation where I'm uncomfortable, it's not work it anymore," Reynolds said. "I've been lucky that they've always been so professional and organized. I've never felt disrespected or anything. It's very much about the dance performance. Security's great. Someone's always with us. It's always well planned out, well-organized."

The first preseason game for the Bengals is Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. against the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium.

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