Please meet Patricia (“Trish”), an Environmental Engineer and Captain for the Patriots! She’s one of MANY science cheerleaders representing the New England Patriots!
Lauren:What turned you on to engineering?
Trish: I always liked math growing up. My dad would always sit with my and help me understand what I was learning at the time. Math was fun for me. I still remember learning subtraction and addition at the dinner table with my parents using Cheerios. I also remember learning my multiplication tables and having my grampa ask me randomly what does X times X equal? Math was a fun game where I enjoyed the concept of rules and always having a solution. My dad is also a draftsman, which is where I think I get my desire for math from.
In high school I enjoyed my math and science classes and one of my teachers recommended chemical engineering. I applied to multiple colleges as a chemical engineer major. I graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I made my decision to become an environmental engineer based on my experience with Engineers Without Borders. Helping communities and educating them about their drinking water is what I truly enjoy doing. Constantly working on something new, continued learning and knowing that the work I do directly impacts hundreds of people in a positive way.
Lauren: Please describe what you do as an engineer.
Trish: My typical day is usually very long yet very exciting and rewarding. I work during the week at my engineering office. At work I do anything from calculating how much water a town needs in the future to going out in the field and recording pressure data on hydrants needed to help analyze a town’s water distribution system. From work I either go directly to the stadium for cheerleading practice or I go to my old dance studio where I teach dance. Throughout the year I am also given the opportunity to perform at home Patriots games, make appearances throughout New England at promotional and charitable events, travel to tropical places to shoot our calendar and make overseas tours to support our troops. It is definitely a different lifestyle, but I am somehow able to make time for family and friends.
Lauren: What does it mean for you to be an engineer?
Trish: I am an environmental engineer because it means so much to me that I can apply engineering to help people in the community. My firm works for municipalities throughout New England to improve their drinking water systems. It is great to meet so many people in the field and know that I have a direct influence in making their community better.
Lauren: How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering career?
Trish: I think that cheerleading has given me the tools to communicate well with the community and has taught me a lot of life lessons and balancing skills. When you work as a team you learn to work together and not as an individual. At my work, people recognize this about me, and it is something that I have to thank being a part of a team for.
Lauren: How do you balance the demands of pursuing a college degree/working full-time with the responsibilities of being a professional Cheerleader?
Trish: I think a lot of athletes learn the balance of life demands and sports demands very early on. Balancing cheering, school, work, family and friends is something that I have been doing since the sixth grade. It becomes a way of life. I would say my daily planner, a lot of sticky notes and good communication contribute to my success of being able to juggle everything.
Lauren: Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
Trish: I have been dancing since the age of 5. In high school I was in multiple competitions and started the dance team at my high school. In college I took dance major classes along with my engineering courses and was captain of the dance team where we won second place in a national competition in Daytona, FL. My first year on the UMass Dance Team, I met my friend Angela. She was only on the team that one year because she tried out and made the Patriots Cheerleaders. She wanted me to try out as well. I always had an interest in it, but decided to wait until I graduated to audition for the team. It was a way to continue my love for dance and root for my favorite team in the NFL!
Lauren: Devoting time to charities in the community is a large part of cheering for the New England Patriots. How have these experiences influenced you?
Trish: Charity events in the community are in my mind the best part of being a cheerleader. Working with people who devote so much of their time to help others is admirable and gives me the urge to want to be involved more.
Lauren: Have you had the opportunity to be a part of a military tour during your time with the Patriots? If so, can you tell me about that experience?
Trish: I had the opportunity to travel oversees for a military tour over the holidays in 2010. It was by far my most memorable and rewarding experience I have had in my entire life. Everyone was so grateful for us to be over in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Quatar, but the ironic part is that we were so grateful to be oversees and to see a small part of what sacrifices members of the military make for our country. It is truly eye opening and I am so thankful to have experienced it. During the tour we traveled to 12 forward operating bases and combat outposts in the regional command north section of Afghanistan. We performed multiple shows, signed autographs and took pictures with troops. We ate all of our meals with the troops, so we were able to talk about their homes and families. We also took part in a humanitarian mission in Kyrgyzstan at a local school for underprivileged children where we distributed hats and scarves, danced and played with the kids. It was an experience that I will never forget.
Lauren: Can you explain a little about the Patriots Junior Cheerleader program and the responsibility you have as a role model for young girls?
Trish: The Patriots Junior Cheerleader program is a clinic that the Patriots Cheerleaders host every year to young kids from ages 7-17 interested not only in cheering, but being involved with the community as well. There are two weekends in the summer that we teach these young girls a routine that they perform during a Patriots pre-season game. During the summer clinics we also teach them the importance of team work, working hard and having fun. Throughout the year we invite them to join the Patriots Cheerleaders at charity events so that at a young age, they can understand the importance of playing a part in the community. They definitely look up to us and if we can be positive role models to them, hopefully they will be positive role model to younger generations as they get older.
Lauren: There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a scientist. Obviously these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or engineers]?
Trish: I feel that there are many stereotypes that are not true for many people in the world not just cheerleaders. When I go to a promotional appearance it does feel good to tell fans that I am an environmental engineer. Most people are shocked or confused. After having a conversation with many fans, I feel that they have a whole new respect for not only me but the other women on the team and in the industry. It feels good to play a little part in breaking stereotypes in the world.
Lauren: Many of your teammates are also pursuing degrees or working full-time. What has been the best part of having such a big support system? Are there any special ways or traditions you have to help each other?
Trish: When you make the team as a rookie, you really use the vets for advice. It can be overwhelming at first, but there are many women on the team who have similar lives of balancing their schoolwork, full-time job and cheering. We use each other to talk about ways to balance it best, we have traditions such as motivations, and when you are on the field and in the community, it is always realized the hard work of balancing everything is worth it.
Lauren: Team motivations were one of my personal favorite parts of the season. Can you explain a little bit about the tradition? How do you feel it encourages hard work and team building?
Trish: A motivation is something small to simply motivate the team. Throughout the year, we all work very hard, working long hours pushing ourselves and each other mentally and physically each practice and even more when we get home to prepare for the next practice. Motivations are the little things that make us feel like a team and remind us that the hard work has a purpose. Motivations are reminders that there are 23 other women going through the same challenges. For example Caitie had her motivation around Thanksgiving. She wrote a poem about each girl and other aspects of being on the team that she was thankful for. It made us all laugh and really reminded us of all the great things that had happened during the year. After someone does a motivation everyone seems to be positive and energetic. They play a very important role with our team each year and we would definitely recommend every team to try it.
Lauren: Best cheerleading experience?
Trish: The best cheerleading experience I have had so far would be traveling to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Qatar to visit the troops over the Christmas season in 2010. It was truly a rewarding experience that will always be with me. We were able to travel to 12 forward operating bases and combat outposts in the regional command north section of Afghanistan as well as join a humanitarian mission in Kyrgyzstan at the school for underprivileged children where we distributed hats and scarves and danced and played with the kids.
Lauren: What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Trish: I would tell myself to strive for what I want, continue to learn and grow and never second guess yourself based on what people may think of you.
Lauren: What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Trish: Besides being an NFL Cheerleader and an engineer, I am also a daredevil. I love to hike, water ski, snowboard, ATV, and I have gone skydiving three times! I am an outdoorsy person. I enjoy using my free time to go hiking, waterskiing, ATVing, snowmobiling and taking day trips to places throughout New England. One free weekend I had in the fall, I went to North Conway to see the foliage, go hiking, shopping and eat at the local restaurants.
Lauren: What are your plans for the future?
Trish: I am going to continue my path of engineering and dance in some way. In each field I am eager to do my best and see where life takes me. I will still continue learning and go for my professional license in engineering and hopefully continue to teach dance.
Lauren: Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Trish: I would love to be a role model for younger girls in the community. I think it is important to inspire younger generations to strive to do their best in whatever they choose to do and to not worry about what others may think of them.