Golden State Warriors Girl Sam, center. Image courtesy of the Golden State Warriors. 2012 – 2013 Season.
I’ve attended three NBA games in my life that I’ve blogged about so far, all with the Golden State Warriors here in the San Francisco Bay Area and all with Jeremy Lin playing for the Warriors or the Houston Rockets. As you may know, Jeremy Lin is the first Asian American NBA basketball player in the modern age.
However, as I got to thinking, how about Asian American dancers in the NBA or the Golden State Warriors and the Warrior Girls – were there any Asian American dancers? And that got me thinking further as to what it took to become a Warriors Girl, what’s involved commitment wise, etc. So I reached out to the Warriors, as they’ve always been very open and responsive to my media requests.
According to the Golden State Warriors staff, there are four Asian American Warriors Girls – Samantha, Patrisha, Danielle and Deanna. I asked to interview Samantha (better known as Sam), who has been with the Warrior Girls for three seasons now and is a captain of the Warriors Girl dance squad. I had a chance to do a phone interview with Sam, right before Game 4 of the Nuggets versus the Warriors , and very briefly met her in person at the Oracle Arena before Game 4 started.
Sam admitted, “It may sounds like a cliché, but I’ve always wanted to dance since I was a little girl.” She recalled an early childhood memory at the age of two at a family reunion, where family members did a performance for each other – and she and her cousin were dressed in a hula outfit (skirt and coconut bra and all) and dancing a hula routine for the family. At the end of the routine, her parents couldn’t get her off the “stage” and had her enroll in dance class shortly afterwards at an early age.
Sam was always active while growing up, taking dance lesson and playing sports for fun, being involved in Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Her great grandfather emigrated from the Philippines and Sam grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming a die hard Giants, 49rs and Warriors fan.
Unlike where I grew up (in Western Massachusetts, 90 miles west of Boston), there weren’t many Asian Americans. However, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sam said she had a lot of teachers and fellow Asian American dance friends and classmates. In fact, the current Warriors Girls coach is also Filipino.
Like Jeremy Lin’s parents, Sam’s parents encouraged Sam to stay involved in dance and cheerleading while growing up, but of course, academics always came first (getting homework done, etc). Sam said dancing helped organized her life, kept her steady and focused. When Sam went off to college, she thought about giving up on dance, but her parents encouraged her to continue and try out for the dance team and remained active.
Being selected as a Warriors Girl is pretty competitive. About two hundred women try out every year, with eighteen members being selected on the squad. Even if you’ve already been on the team before, you’ve got to try out each and every year. Of course, having prior experience as a Warrior Girl will give you an edge as to experience does count and having performed in a previous season, one will certainly know how to perform. Yet, from year-to-year, the squad may be looking for something different, so a spot is never guaranteed.
Becoming a Warriors Girl is much more than being a great dancer, but also being well rounded and “the total package” – having a great attitude, poise and being professional. As Sam had mentioned, as a Warrior Girl representing the Warriors franchise, one has to handle a lot of situations and be flexible. On average, a Warriors Girl stays on the squad two to three years (and after hearing about the practice and commitment, I can see why).
After making it as a Warriors Girl, the time commitment and practice is pretty intense and has to be taken really as a part-time job commitment. Not including the home games (the Warrior Girls don’t travel to away games), the squad practices three times a week, usually from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. So if there are home games, one might be busy 5 days a week.
During the month of March, Sam was busy as a Warrior Girl almost every single day – including promotional events, events for season ticket holders, etc. Also, Warrior Girls are involved in other activities outside of the games – including volunteering and being active and involved in the community, as well as some times making it down to the Santa Cruz Warriors (the Golden State Warriors’ Development League (D-League) team).
As I had mentioned, this is Sam’s third season as a Warrior Girl and the second season as a captain with three captains this season. Essentially, the Warrior Girls dancers vote on who their captains are. As a captain, Sam’s primary responsibility during the games is selecting the routines to perform.
It goes without saying, the Warriors have had a terrific season this year, making into the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The three years Sam has been with the Warrior Girls, she’s expressed that the team and definitely the crowds have gotten more excited. Having attended a few games this past year, I can certainly say that the Warriors make the overall experience of attending a game a fun one – beyond just the game play itself as well as the Warrior Girls’ performances, but with the entertainment during time-outs and half-time, as well as giveaways and contests.
Being a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley, Sam has also been impressed with the Warriors and their fans’ embrace of social media. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Golden State Warriors have the highest number of Facebook & Foursquare checkin’s, Facebook postings and Twitter tweets per attendee in the nation – given what I see on my own news feeds and the Warriors’ encouragement (given the number of people at the Oracle Coliseum, the free WiFi is amazingly responsive) . With the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, the 49ers making it to the Super Bowl and now the Warriors making it to the playoffs, Bay Area sports fans are definitely more excited than ever.
My interview with Sam was before I attended Game 4, but she expressed the energy level, passion and excitement during Game 3, the first playoff home game in Oakland, as electric and through the roof. After attending Game 4 (which I’ll blog about in a future post), that was pretty self-evident, overall a pretty awesome and (being from Massachusetts – wicked) fun experience and insanely loud at times. The only comparison I can think of was attending the Final Four and the Finals when my Duke basketball team played against the University of Connecticut in 1999 (where Duke unfortunately lost…)
I’m thankful to Sam as well as the Golden State Warriors more insight into the Warrior Girls and Sam’s insights into her personal story, what it takes to become a Warriors Girl as well as her experiences. As the Warriors did clinch a Conference Semifinals spot (against the 2nd seeded San Antonio Spurrs), I’ll be rooting for the Warriors and hopefully attending some more home games.