Update – Feb. 4, 2019 at 8:22 p.m.
While the 2019 Super Bowl was notably less exciting for Philadelphians than last year’s, Sunday was the biggest night of Vanessa Fattizzo’s life.
Fattizzo, along with the squad’s 33 other members, cheered for the Patriots in their 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.
“To think that I tried out on a whim and got in, I couldn’t have lucked out any more,” said Fattizzo, a 2017 communication studies alumna.
After weeks of auditioning and traveling back and forth between Philadelphia and Foxborough, Massachusetts, Fattizzo learned she’d earned a spot on the 2018 New England Patriots’ cheerleading squad while on a train home from Boston last year.
Fattizzo dreamed of being a professional dancer since high school, and after graduating she decided to pursue a spot on a professional sports cheerleading team, she said. Fattizzo originally auditioned for the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia 76ers to try to stay close to her family, but she wasn’t successful.
Her mother, Angela Fattizzo, said she believes Vanessa Fattizzo’s minor setback pushed her daughter to focus on her goal.
“She wanted to dance, she knew that for sure, and when she heard the ‘nos’ she didn’t let that stop her,” Angela Fattizzo said. “She just kept going and decided that the Patriots were the right fit for her.”
For Vanessa Fattizzo, the team has been a welcoming environment.
“The way [the captain] speaks about the team, I know it’s not about the money,” Vanessa Fattizzo said. “It’s more or less getting to do what you love and experience that with people who also love dancing and the Patriots and football.”
Vanessa Fattizzo moved to Boston two weeks after the Patriots announced her spot on the squad.
When she’s not working as a client experience associate at First Republic Bank, Vanessa Fattizzo practices with the squad at the Patriots’ indoor facilities and Gillette Stadium, the Patriots’ field in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The cheerleaders’ trainer, Andy Berler, leads the squad through hour-long, high-intensity interval training, bodyweight and cardio workouts twice per week. The cheerleaders also attend two-hour dance classes and are expected to work out on their own, she said.
“Cheerleaders work very hard, and not to pat myself on the back, but our program is very tough,” she added. “The amount of pushups I’ve had to do is unreal.”
Throughout the year, Vanessa Fattizzo has developed close relationships with her teammates.
“Whereas some girls use this as exposure and as networking, as great as this is, it’s my sisterhood,” she said. “For me, it’s like having that bond that I had in college, but on a different level, where all these women are so beautiful and talented and amazing people inside and out.”
While at Temple University, Vanessa Fattizzo was a member of the Diamond Gems, the university’s dance team, and served as co-captain her senior year alongside 2017 kinesiology alumna Dominique Mazzone.
The two choreographed the Diamond Gems’s routines for the squad’s halftime performances at Lincoln Financial Field, the Liacouras Center and pep rallies on Main Campus.
Mazzone noticed Vanessa Fattizzo’s strong work ethic and determination the moment she joined the team, she said.
“A lot of people don’t find that balance,” Mazzone said. “They either love to dance or love to be on the team, and she did both. Her work ethic was awesome because she loved to help the team in any way, even as an underclassman.”
During her three years with the Diamond Gems, Vanessa Fattizzo improved her ability to perform in front of large crowds, interact with fans and speak publically, Fattizzo said.
Mazzone is excited and proud of Vanessa Fattizzo’s achievements and often believes that Vanessa Fattizzo doesn’t give herself enough credit.
“It’s hard to pick up and move your life for something that you’re so passionate about,” Mazzone said. “I know she is continuing a dream, and it’s such a cool thing to see as a friend for her to be pursuing and succeeding at.”
Despite the hard work, prepping for the Super Bowl was worth it.
“The Patriots were a team I never thought I would be a part of, and now I couldn’t imagine being on any other team,” Vanessa Fattizzo said.