SMWC Student Motivates Fans During NBA Lockout
December 5th, 2011 | SMWC
Photos courtesy of the Indiana Pacers
When Jenna Schulz is at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, she is a typical student. When she’s out with the Pacemates, she’s a star.
The Pacemates, the official dance team of the Indiana Pacers, are known for taking to the floor at Conseco Fieldhouse and giving Pacers fans something to cheer about while their favorite players are off the court. During the National Basketball Association (NBA) lockout, the Pacemates have instead taken their show on the road, interacting with fans outside of the stadium and trying to keep the connection between the Pacers and the community alive.
“We want to keep the fans motivated until the men start playing again,” Schulz, sophomore, said. Besides community appearances, the Pacemates have been doing radio spots and keeping their website up-to-date with new pictures. “We recently had a Halloween contest, where you voted for your favorite Pacemate,” Schulz said. “I was a cowgirl.”
Schulz, who hails from Terre Haute, IN, is a rookie to the Pacemates but has been dancing for 12 years. “I’ve been dancing since kindergarten,” Schulz said. “I did dance team all through middle school, and in high school it really became a passion.” Throughout the years, Schulz had dreamed of dancing for the NBA and the Pacers, so when the opportunity to tryout presented itself, she couldn’t say no. “Me still being so young, I thought, why don’t I go try and if I don’t make it, I still have a lot ofyears,” she said.
After a grueling, weeklong tryout process, which included quickly learning new choreography and taking part in an impromptu photo-shoot, around 200 dancers were narrowed down to the 13 who would make up the official dance squad. “I was happy I was one of the first names to be called because I couldn’t have taken the suspense,” Schulz said. “It’s a really big dream. I’m happy I made it.”
Both as a marketing student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and as a Pacemate, Schulz recognizes the importance of hard work. “You have to put your all into it,” Schulz said. “If you slack, it’s just going to mess up everything.You have to be determined and never give up.”
Another important aspect of being both a dancer and a college student is preparation. “A lot of the girls have other jobs and a lot of them are commuters like me,” Schulz said. “We learn routines and then it’s your job, once you’re not at practice, to study those routines. It’s the same as with your classes. You have to do your homework, you have to study for your exams, so that in your class time, you can put your best foot forward.”
Because this is her first year as a Pacemate, the NBA lockout has so far prevented Schulz from fulfilling her dream of dancing during an NBA game. “I love doing the appearances and I love going round the community, but it’s teasing me,” Schulz said. “I’m like right there, so I just want to be on the floor dancing, but....” She sighs and smiles. “Soon enough, soon enough.” In the meantime, Schulz is enjoying getting to know the fans. “It’s not just strictly dance,” Schulz said. “I get to represent something and I enjoy that too, that and being around people.”
One of Schulz’s favorite community appearances was a couple of weeks ago, when the Pacemates visited a zoo. “These little kids would run up to you and say ‘Oh, I see you at the games!’ And they get so excited when you can sign their autograph and take a picture with them,” Schulz said. “My favorites are the little boys that say they want their picture taken and then when it’s time to take it, they turn bright red and they won’t even look at you.”
Mostly, what Schulz enjoys about the Pacers’ community of fans is their enthusiasm. “The way things go anymore, like with the economy, people are always down on things. And it’s good to see people get excited about something as simple as a basketball game or a team,” Schulz said. She may be eager to take to center court, but for now, she is content to look forward to all that is to come. “It just shows how important one team can be to people,” Schulz said.