Shardae Swoope is the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl Cheerleader.
That is not a surprise as the fifth-year veteran embodies everything that the squad represents both on the field and in the game of life – leadership, a deep-rooted passion for community service, and a successful career for starters.
"I am lucky and blessed that my team would allow me to represent them and this organization in such a high standard," Swoope said.
Swoope's road to the Pro Bowl is a story about perseverance and overcoming adversity. If you are already starting to waver on your New Year's resolutions, just look to Swoope. She is the role model for relentlessly refusing to let her dreams slip away.
"Whatever it is that you want in life, you keep going for it and, yes, doors may close on you, but that doesn't mean you give up. You just get up," Swoope said.
Even though this is her fifth year on the squad, she auditioned five times before finally making it in 2017. This isn't a test you can retake in a couple of weeks. There is just one audition process each year. Each time, Swoope would implement her 24-hour rule. She was allowed to be disappointed or frustrated or upset for a day before starting the process all over again. Swoope simply adjusted her perspective and realized that she wasn't ready.
"I just needed the confidence in myself and I didn't have it at that time," Swoope said.
She continued to train, attended the Open Call workshops that were offered by the Eagles Cheerleaders, and honed her skills as the head cheerleading coach at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey, where she is a special education teacher. Her annual preparation routine also includes reading the book Mind Gym by Gary Mack, which is all about overcoming adversity.
Year by year, Swoope inched closer to her goal, reaching the semifinals then the finals twice before her breakthrough. It turned out to be the perfect season as the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in her rookie year.
"It was full of excitement and energy every single day," said Swoope, a Willingboro, New Jersey, native. "I didn't want to sleep because I didn't want to miss anything. I just soaked up every moment of the experience – from the plane ride to the game."
That season, the Eagles organization also announced the launch of the Eagles Autism Challenge, a cycling and 5K run/walk event, to raise funds for innovative research and programs led by doctors and scientists at leading institutions to assist those currently affected by autism as well as future generations. Swoope teaches three classes with autistic students.
"This organization is just as passionate as I am for something and to see how big it's become is so rewarding. I smile right now talking about it," Swoope said. "At one point, I'm wearing my teacher hat. The next, I'm wearing my wings and I'm still doing what I love to do and this organization is supporting me without even knowing that they're supporting me. I truly believe that making people aware of autism is extremely important. I feel like it's been put in the shadows for so long. With the Eagles bringing it to light, it's on a higher platform.
"It's important to bring to the surface that these kids may have a different learning style. They are still human. They still have all of the same emotions that you do. It just takes one person to kind of see and understand that so being able to bring that to the light will help."
Swoope has participated in every Eagles Autism Challenge and makes it a point to volunteer for the other autism-related community events throughout the year. She has built friendships with families who regularly attend the events and gets updates on how the children are progressing.
"It shows them that the Eagles are everywhere and they do more than just football," Swoope said.
Even after achieving the highest recognition as a cheerleader, Swoope will return for the 2022 season because of her insatiable drive to help others in the community. Swoope has volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico, participated in a Play 60 event in the Dominican Republic, and cheered on our Armed Forces during a military goodwill tour in Honduras and Curaçao.
"I don't think I would have these opportunities outside of being an Eagles Cheerleader," Swoope said. "I want to continue to be a role model for the community and the youth in this community as long as I possibly can. I never want children or anyone to give up on their dreams. I'm going to live out this moment as much as I possibly can."
Swoope will take part in several community events while representing the Eagles at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas early next month. Swoope refused to give up on her dream and through the Eagles Cheerleaders has discovered the person she was destined to become.
"I am a believer. I am a dreamer. Now in life, I am the girl who I looked up to when I was a kid. I just feel so empowered," Swoope said. "I just feel so confident in who I am and that I can make a difference."