When Plant High's football players complain about their long hours of practice and aching muscles, the Danceros can't help rolling their eyes.
Try spending those hours kicking and leaping at practice and then heading straight to the dance studio for more dance training. Or taking the school band's sometimes iffy song selections and transforming them into visual masterpieces.
Line formations? Teamwork? Try getting 23 teenage girls to agree on the same outfit and hairstyle. Or dealing with the tears when someone gets snappy or testy during a particularly tough dance number.
"It's hard to yell at your friends," said senior captain Caitlin Strober. But discipline — especially in dance, and on a muddy field, wearing itchy sequins — is key.
Such is the life of a Plant High Dancero, and thousands of girls and women over the years wouldn't trade it for anything. There's a special sense of pride being one of the state's top dance teams, which — even during the most dreadful football seasons — has held strong throughout -the decades.
It's even more special when the guys do their part. The Plant football team is having it's most successful era since the school opened in 1927, and is playing for its second state title in three years today in Orlando.
Parents, students, the band, the flag team, the cheerleaders and bus loads of alumni will be following them to the Citrus Bowl, where they'll play Tallahassee Lincoln.
The Danceros are thrilled to be a part of yet another halftime show, if a little exhausted from the long season. It's the kind of thing that only fellow or former Danceros can understand.
The biggest misconception about Danceros?
"That all we do is shake our butt," said senior Stephanie Schwartz.
This isn't a club any girl with rhythm can join. Most of the Danceros have been taking dance lessons since they were three. They know ballet, jazz, modern, swing and hip-hop moves they can incorporate into everything from Earth, Wind & Fire tunes to pep rally drum beats to the Mario Brothers video game theme song.
Even with so much talent on the Danceros team, there are challenges. Like when the band hands them a song that sounds like a funeral march and tells them to make it fun and inspiring. Or the time they had to figure out how to get from the 10-yard-line to the other end of the field in three 8 counts.
"Oh, that was so hard," Strober said.
But it's so rewarding. Strober, like many of the Danceros, knew she wanted to be part of the team before she came to Plant. Her older sister was a Dancero. Some Danceros have mothers who were Danceros. Even if you have no bloodline with the Danceros, there's that instant connection when they wear their Dancero shirts to the Verizon store or nail salon and women recognize the name.
"I remember running into an old lady who was like, 'Oh, I was a Dancero back in the '70s,' " said senior Alexis Serrano.
Those were the good old days, recalled one "old lady" named Dee Ann Athan, 54, now a well known defense attorney. She was a Dancero in the early 1970s, right after schools became integrated, and Plant had a new band instructor from Florida A&M University.
The Danceros quickly went from being a traditional kick-line team with white tasselled boots and fluffy skirts, to being hip trendsetters who did the funky chicken and danced to songs from the movie Shaft. The band got into it, too, wearing capes and running on the field.
"No one was doing that kind of thing at the time," Athan said.
Athan, whose daughter also was a Dancero, said the girls today seem serious, focused and talented.
"They're perfectionists, for sure," said Danceros coach LeShea Serrano.
Most fans in the crowd today won't know how many hours, how much sweat and tears, went into this season's final two-and-a-half minute halftime show.
But they'd better know one thing:
They're not just shaking their butts.
Emily Nipps can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3431.