Sometimes, you have to get on the sidelines to make a dream come true. That’s the idea behind a fast-growing business that has been — quite literally — making waves in stadiums and arenas around the world for more than 10 years.
Since 2010, dance and cheer “prep school” Sideline Prep has placed its student-clients on 19 NFL entertainment teams, 14 NBA dance teams, and numerous other pro and semi-pro dance and entertainment teams. Originally started as a “test run,” the company was inspired by its co-founder’s terrifying first audition for an NFL cheerleading team.
“I was so nervous,” recalls GeNienne Samuels, Sideline Prep’s co-founder and CEO. “I didn’t have a technical background in dance or ballet, and I didn’t know what a ‘pirouette’ was, much less how to execute one. But, like a lot of cheerleaders, I had that ambition to perform on a bigger stage.”
Samuels got the gig, becoming a rookie member of the First Ladies of Football, the cheerleaders for the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the Washington Redskins). Years later, she and a partner started Sideline Prep, and the two initially focused on placing clients with the Washington Commanders. Success came fast, however, and Samuels soon set her sights on the Washington Wizards and the Baltimore Ravens. Years later, what initially began as a “test run” is now an international success story.
“We have expanded across the nation and internationally, helping hundreds of Americans and 10 Japanese women make NFL and NBA dance teams in the process,” Samuels says. “We give them guidance, advice, feedback, and love, but they’re the ones who put in the work to make their dreams a reality. We could not be more proud of each and every one of them.”
Samuel’s own 11-year career as a professional cheerleader spans both the NFL and NBA. She was a cheerleader for the Washington Commanders for eight years (including four years as captain), later dancing as a Washington “Wizard Girl” for three years. She has also completed a dozen overseas tours on behalf of the USO, AFE, and the Department of Defense, supporting American soldiers.
“One of the most rewarding and profound experiences of being a professional cheerleader was having the opportunity to travel overseas in support of our military, taking a little piece of the USA to them,” she says.
Now that Samuels occupies the executive office, part of her job is making sure that Sideline Prep, above all, loves and cares about its team of clients, whom she calls “protentials”. That includes hiring coaches who have, in Samuels’s own words, “been there and done it” in the big leagues — mentors who can pass on their inside knowledge to fast-track “protentials” to the pro level. Sideline Prep claims an incredible success rate in excess of 70%, meaning that at least 7 in 10 PCP graduates land a spot on a team.
Meanwhile, Samuels’ career has moved on from the sidelines. She is currently the in-game host for both the NFL’s Washington Commanders and the NWSL’s Washington Spirit, as well as a Prime Time Anchor for CBS TV News in Richmond, Viriginia, her hometown. “My experience as a professional cheerleader for the NFL and NBA opened the door to many more opportunities once I ‘hung up’ my poms. It also gave me the confidence to pursue big, scary, intimidating goals,” she says. “After all, there’s fewer stages or platforms on earth bigger than an NFL stadium. If I can perform in front of thousands of people, I can accomplish just about anything!”
Sideline Prep also helps its clients broaden their own horizons. “Our primary mission is to give aspiring professional cheerleaders the knowledge, style, glamor, and confidence they need to make it,” Samuels says. “But we are also ambassadors for our professional cheer/dance organization partners and we support them throughout the season by supplying great talent.” Sideline Prep is now actively recruiting corporate sponsors to support new pipelines, including Pro NFL/NBA Coaching, Pro Dance Camps, College Dance Camps, Junior/Kids Cheer & Dance Camps, one-on-one Instructions, audition photo shoots, and mindset/confidence workshops.
But the original Pro Cheer Playbook (PCP) remains a standout. The popular program lasts for six months and includes a combination of one-on-one feedback and care, group coaching, live dance and mindset/motivation sessions, virtual learning, and in-person dancing. The program is also entirely virtual, so anyone from anywhere can join it and find success.
“One reason our clients have been so successful is that we have mechanisms in place to help hold everyone accountable. We are there every step of the way, showing our clients what to do, how to do, and how to do it right,” Samuels says. “We want you to see you shine on the sidelines. We’ll be cheering you on along the way and once you get there!”