Center Grove Alum Vanessa Wahl Is Enjoying Life As An Indianapolis Colts Cheerleader
Writer / Michelle Kaufman
Photography Provided by the Indianapolis Colts
Center Grove graduate and Indianapolis Colts cheerleader Vanessa Wahl went from not owning a single Colts apparel item to having 90 percent of her wardrobe be Colts themed and being part of a “glorified sorority but with more rhinestones,” she says.
“I really, really loved dance team because we got to dance in front of fans instead of just competing for a piece of plastic,” Wahl says. “It felt more meaningful. Especially during football season, I loved being on the sidelines and that’s pretty parallel to what we do with cheer now. I didn’t feel out of place when I started cheer because I was so used to dancing on the sidelines.”
Wahl was in Los Angeles pursuing commercial dance when her mom sent her a link to Colts tryouts for the 2017-18 season. She was initially unsure but decided to go to a clinic class to prepare for auditions even though it didn’t sound like her thing.
“It totally kicked my butt, and it was one of the hardest things that I had ever done,” she says. “I immediately fell in love with it because of that. I originally did it because I wanted a push in some sort of way that was different than anything that I had ever had before.”
Wahl is currently in her second year with the team and says she enjoys that the program is focused on more than just dance.
“It’s very much into fitness as well and that’s something I’ve always wanted to get into, and we really do push for fitness and to be an athlete, not just a dancer,” Wahl says. “Cheer isn’t about being the perfect dancer, it’s about being a good person more than anything and showing that in every aspect of your life, whether you’re on the field or off the field. That’s why I love it.”
Family is a big part of Wahl’s life, too. Her mother, Hannah, is the head varsity coach for the Center Grove High School dance team. Her stepfather’s grandfather worked for the Colts, and Vanessa’s family and her boyfriend come to every game.
“I cheer with my friends and then I stay at their houses and we have sleepovers before games and stuff,” she says. “It’s nice that I’m not away from any of the people that are near and dear to my heart. They’re just down the street or across the way on the football field.”
One of Wahl’s favorite parts of being a member of the Colts cheerleading team is going out into the community and seeing and meeting people who are being impacted by some part of the Colts organization.
“Whenever I see a horseshoe, I think, ‘I’m a part of that,’” Wahl says. “It’s very heartwarming to be involved with such a huge organization.”
Wahl’s all-time favorite community appearance is with her fellow cheerleader and best friend Rachel when they surprised an IPS middle school cheer team. The cheerleaders were able to learn a warm up and dance from Vanessa and Rachel, and even though they didn’t have matching cheer shoes or bows, those items didn’t seem like a necessity.
“They don’t have the basic necessities that other school cheer teams might have,” Wahl says. “But they had all these chants ready for us, and they were just so excited to entertain and they didn’t need a sparkly outfit to do it. It was my favorite time at an appearance because I got to teach them a dance, and I got to see their faces light up. They didn’t usually practice with music or anything so to be able to get them out of their comfort zone and learn a little dance with us was by far my favorite cheer memory so far.”
To keep up with Wahl and the 25 other Colts cheerleaders, visit colts.com/cheerleaders.