laura vikmanis

Photo Credit: Ladies Dot Dot Dot

Do you remember when you were a little girl and you would hang out with your girl friends talking about the future? You would ask each other “where will you be in 20, 30 or 40 years?” If someone would have told me at age 42 I would be a single mom to two teenage daughters, work a full-time job and be the oldest NFL cheerleader, I wouldn’t have believed it…I still don’t believe it!  How did I get here? Where did the time go and where am I going from here? My path has had twists and turns, and ups and downs and I never thought I would get through it all, but here I am. I’ve learned from my downfalls, learned to pick myself back up, and I’m ready to take on life’s next big challenges.

I grew up as an active child focusing my energy in dance. I started dancing when I was 3 years old and continued through high school taking a variety of classes from ballet, tap and jazz.  I tried cheering in 7th grade and was on the drill team my senior year, but mainly stuck with dance classes. My senior year I was in a dance company, but as soon as I graduated high school, I moved out to Los Angeles and attended California State University, Long Beach. I worked towards my Bachelor’s degree in dietetics and worked part-time as an aerobics instructor at a women’s health club. Living in such an active city helped me to take advantage of activities I had never done before. I enjoyed roller-skating and bike riding on the strand near the beach, and tried my best to participate in sand volleyball. What a fun time in my life!

laura kids

PHoto Credit: What Culture

I wish I could tell you my life remained fun and enjoyable, but that isn’t what happened. I ended up in a marriage to someone who was ultra controlling, verbally abusive and slowly over time stole all of my spark and energy away from me. As the years went by I ended up losing myself, forgetting who I was and ultimately lost my passion for life. I did, however, pour my heart and soul into taking care of my children. I spent every waking moment playing with them, teaching them, caring for them and involving them in activities. It was the only thing that gave me a sense of purpose in life. I decided to end my marriage and start over. My divorce was nasty, long and drawn out, but somehow I managed to get through it. As my new life began, I spent a lot of time thinking about where I wanted my new life to go and what I could do to make myself happy. I tried not to look too far ahead, and instead decided the best thing to do was to look at what used to make me happy before I got married and focus my energies on how I could get my true self back again.

I started taking care of myself again and kickstarted a healthier lifestyle. I began exercising regularly, making healthier food decisions, and got re-involved with dance classes. My whole existence and outlook on life began to change. I felt confident, motivated and powerful again. My family could see I was back to my old self again and more importantly, my daughters now saw a mom that was truly present in their lives. Not only just physically present, but emotionally present. I could finally give them, and myself, the encouragement and motivation they needed to succeed.

I took this new-found motivation and self awareness to challenge myself. I started dating again and found someone who supported my hopes and dreams and encouraged me to achieve them. I trained and competed in three half-marathons, became a certified personal trainer and decided to do something that was a long shot. I decided try-out for the Cincinnati Bengals Cheerleading squad, the Ben-Gals at age 39. Why did I decide to do that? Well, I had attended a Bengals game and spent most of the game watching the cheerleaders. I saw how much fun they were having and most of all, saw all the cute dances they were doing. I said to myself, “I think I can do that.  I WANT to do that!”  My family and friends initially thought I was crazy, but I pushed on through and learned everything I could about the try-outs.

The whole next year I focused on improving my dance abilities, diet and fitness. I went on to try-out again and finally made it on the team at age 40! My daughters and family were so proud! Now, please don’t get me wrong, my two daughters are my life’s greatest accomplishment; however, becoming the NFL’s oldest cheerleader, and mother of two, is an accomplishment I couldn’t be more proud of! For me, this achievement encompasses and acknowledges all of my life’s challenges, hopes and dreams.