Laura Vikmanis was born in 1968. She joined the Cincinnati Ben-Gals in 2009 and is the oldest cheerleader in the NFL. A registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, she is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach. New Line Cinema has optioned her life story for a feature film. She lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her two daughters. Amy Sohn is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Run Catch Kiss, My Old Man, Prospect Park West, and its upcoming sequel. She has been a columnist for the New York Post and New York magazine, writing about relationships, marriage, and parenting. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
It's Not About the Pom-Poms: How a 40-Year-Old Mom Became the NFL's Oldest Cheerleader--and Found Hope, Joy,by Laura Vikmanis, Amy Sohn
A forty-year-old cheerleader? When Laura Vikmanis, a single mom in Ohio, told friends that she wanted to be an NFL cheerleader, they said it would never happen. But she proved them all wrong. . . . Laura Vikmanis has got spirit . . . and pom-poms, too! But before she stepped onto the field as the oldest cheerleader in the National Football League,/b>… See more details below
A forty-year-old cheerleader? When Laura Vikmanis, a single mom in Ohio, told friends that she wanted to be an NFL cheerleader, they said it would never happen. But she proved them all wrong. . . . Laura Vikmanis has got spirit . . . and pom-poms, too! But before she stepped onto the field as the oldest cheerleader in the National Football League, she was sidelined by a bad marriage and the many responsibilities of stay-at-home motherhood. She finally got the courage to leave her husband and to ask herself something she had never asked before: What do I want to do? Remembering her teenage love of dance, she signed up for a pole-dancing fitness class, where she met a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals. When the woman suggested that Laura audition to be a “Ben-Gal,” Laura laughed her off but soon realized that the audition process could be a way of healing herself—and regaining her confidence. Her boots were made for walking—but also for stomping on a football field. She tried out for the team next to girls young enough to be her daughters. Girls with tighter abs, fuller hair, no kids, and no crow’s-feet. After much adversity and multiple auditions, she finally made the team, becoming the oldest cheerleader in the League. It’s Not About the Pom-Poms follows Laura’s inspiring, funny, and eye-opening journey from demoralized divorcée to high-kicking Cincinnati Ben-Gal. Readers will cheer her on as she rediscovers her passion for dancing, takes hip-hop classes with twelve-year-olds, loses twenty-five pounds, discovers her abs, finds love again, and becomes a new kind of role model to her daughters. Laura also provides an inside look into the fascinating world of NFL cheerleaders—the grueling workouts, bad pay, twice-weekly weigh-ins, but, most important, the lifelong bond between the women, who do it all for the glory. Leading with her heart, Laura Vikmanis faces adversity with her head held high as she learns in mid-life to take a flying leap. Powerful and uplifting, It’s Not About the Pom-Poms shows that, no matter your age, it’s never too late to go, fight, and win!
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Rating: 2 of 5 stars (disappointing) Review: On the surface, this book sounds like a real inspiration to anyone who thinks his or her dream cannot be achieved. Laura Vikmanis divorced her husband after fourteen bad years of marriage and was a single mother who wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She loved to dance in her younger days and became inspired to try out for the Ben-Gals, the cheerleading squad of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. She didn’t make the cut on her first try, but that didn’t stop Laura. She worked even harder and made it during her second tryout and at the time of publication was on the Ben-Gals for three years. Her story was an Internet hit and a movie is in the works on this story. So, this book is a must read for everyone, right? The message is clear, and yes, it is nice to see a woman who was so depressed and lacking in self-confidence to achieve her dream. However, the path that Vikmanis takes the reader while becoming a cheerleader is full of contradictions and uncomfortable passages. On the latter point, that may not be the case for all readers. But it would have been better to know that certain personal topics like Laura’s sex life (discussed far too often, IMO) and her reasons for breast augmentation surgery would be discussed in such detail. Some readers, including myself, may feel uncomfortable with such personal information. Obviously, some of this information is needed to set the story, such as her husband locking her in their bedroom. But I really didn’t need to know that she didn’t achieve orgasm until she slept with the first man she met after separation – and on their first date. Details like that are not really necessary for understanding this story of hope and inspiration. I also felt that Vikmanis contradicted herself by wondering why first her father, then her current boyfriend would want to look at magazines like Playboy, yet she does work as part of the Ben-Gals such as posing for calendars, getting the breast surgery and working hard on her physical appearance beyond staying in dancing shape. If women being portrayed as sex objects bothers her, then why does she engage in that type of behavior or work in that field? Especially when she states that many male fans at special events bother her because they try a “boob hug.” I felt she also came across as judgmental on those who may disagree with her choice of profession or surgery decision. While some of that criticism of those people may be justified, the story just seemed to be filled with too many of these, when being judged by others so much, whether her husband, father, or other women, supposedly ruined her self-esteem. Again, it felt like one big contradiction between the message that was sent and the message trying to be sent. The book is mainly about overcoming a horrible past and working on self-esteem. For the most part, the book does that. But again, some of the details to show how much better Vikmanis feels about herself now just make me shake my head. An example of this comes near the end of the book. She states that one of her daughters is embarrassed because some of her friends call her mom a “MILF.” However, Vikmanis says that the comment “makes me secretly smile.” Really? Getting THAT kind of attention from teenagers makes her smile? If you are not familiar with the term “MILF”, I won’t spell it out here – type it into any search engine and you will see what the acronym means. There is a big positive to the book, however, and that is her description of what goes on at NFL cheerleading tryouts, practices and games. These ladies work just as hard as the players and their pay is far too low for the work they do – at the time of publication, the Ben-Gals made $750 for the season. They have routines, need to make weight goals, and are getting less exposure on television as networks chase advertising dollars. I thought that the writing about this issue and the activities of an NFL cheerleader were well illustrated here, as only one who has the experience can write. This wasn’t enough to overcome the disappointment I had with this book, however, as I felt it was too much personal information and emotional. I felt it overshadowed the powerful message to keep pursuing your dreams no matter your age or past life. Pace of the book: Very quick as I finished this in about two hours. I admit that I did read this more quickly than most books as I just wanted to get past all her personal woes, and concentrated on the passages about the cheerleading itself. Do I recommend? I would recommend it to anyone, especially women, who want an inspiring story of overcoming a bad marriage and self-doubt. If the reader is uncomfortable with very personal stories, whether about sex, domestic abuse or eating disorders, then he or she should pass on this book.
Journal of Henry MacBluff.