Westbury resident takes off with Jets Flight Crew
Come sun, rain, wins or losses, the New York Jets Flight Crew is backing Gang Green with glowing smiles, high kicks and fast moving pom-poms. It’s an energy that transfers to the tens of thousands of fans that pack MetLife Stadium each week to watch the Jets play and helping keep spirits high in the stands is Westbury’s Naomi Lucas.
Lucas is a newcomer to the Jets Flight Crew, joining the squad last year after graduating from Queens College. She joins a group of 40 talented dancers responsible for entertaining the 82,000 fans that attend Jets games week-in and week-out. Lucas describes her experience as one that requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but that comes with a great payoff.
“It’s a journey of hard work, but it’s definitely been rewarding,” Lucas said.
Lucas, a 2012 graduate of Hicksville High School, was familiar with Jets Flight Crew Director Denise Garvey, who had previously served as the school district’s theatre department head. While she says she was always a New York sports team fan, she found herself drawn to the Flight Crew after her college dance team was invited to take part in the Mets Cheer and Dance Day, where the Jets cheerleaders taught the girls a choreographed routine to perform at a baseball game.
“It was such an amazing feeling doing the choreography and seeing the cheerleaders,” Lucas said. “I saw this amazing organization I wanted to be a part of.”
In the spring of her senior year in 2016, she competed against more than 300 other girls, including squad veterans, for one of the 40 coveted spots on the team. After three rounds of rehearsals—and in between competing nationally on the Knights—she wowed judges and was granted a spot on the team.
“There was so much excitement in that one moment when I heard my name called,” Lucas said. “I was a little in disbelief for a while. When I told my friends and family, then it became real. It was an amazing feeling.”
Lucas joined the squad for a very special season, as 2016-17 marked the 10th anniversary of the Jets Flight Crew. Wearing the Flight Crew uniform takes more than just physical talent, it’s about personality too.
“We look for talented women who have experience in cheer or dance,” said Garvey, who has been the program director since its inception. “But more importantly, they should have outgoing personalities because they become ambassadors for the organization. Being well-rounded, outgoing and humble are all qualities of a cheerleader.”
Hard work and dedication also play a big part, as the Flight Crew undergoes weeks of intensive training to make sure every jump, kick, twirl and cheer is perfect. After the auditions in April, training starts in June and goes throughout the summer, with three-hour rehearsals three nights a week. It was a lot of hard work, said Lucas, but fun as well.
“You’re surrounded by women who are doing the same work you are,” Lucas said. “Even when it’s tough, there’s always people going through the same thing and they’re there to help. It’s a short amount of time to learn, but it’s definitely rewarding.”
Lucas is no stranger to dance; she’s been doing ballet and jazz since she was eight and she pursued her passion at Queens College as well, where she was on the Knights dance team, serving as captain her senior year. But despite her years of experience, taking the leap to an NFL stage came with its share of challenges.
“There’s a different level of preparation. There’s more expected of you and you expect more of yourself,” Lucas said. And all the training couldn’t prepare her for the impact of cheering for 82,000 screaming fans packed into MetLife Stadium. “I knew there was going to be people in the stands, but I didn’t expect the passion and energy and sound. Jets fans are amazing.”
Lucas cheered at more than 20 games and events last season, performing almost 100 half-time and sideline routines. She said that her favorite part of any game is in the tunnel, as the crew starts their walk onto the field and the reality that she’s getting to do what she loves sinks in all over again.
Even though she’s only been on the Flight Crew for one season, the experience has taught her countless lessons about hard work and focus. One of the biggest takeaways for her is the importance of being prepared.
“From auditions to making the team and having game days and knowing the choreography, it’s all about preparation,” Lucas said. “It’s hard work, but you have to be prepared and control your controllables. Make sure what you can control, you take care of.”
Lucas graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, and said she would love to find a way to combine her passions of exercise and dance. But when it comes time for Flight Crew auditions again in April, Lucas said, she definitely plans to be there.
“Being on the Flight Crew has taught me so much about myself and being positive and organized,” she said. “It’s been an awesome experience. I will definitely audition again.”