she’s a ben-gal at heart

Hearing the roar of 60,000 people at an NFL game can be thrilling and terrifying when you’re used to the student section on a Friday night chanting, “lets go Lebo” at the Mt. Lebanon High School football field.

Lauren Coben, 23, is a Mt. Lebanon graduate of the Class of 2007 and first-year member of the Ben-Gals, the Cincinnati Bengals cheerleading squad. The road to Paul Brown Stadium took hard work and dedication. The Ohio State University graduate had to survive four rounds of cuts by showing off her kicks, turns, and leaps.

The third and biggest round of tryouts is open to the public and is a major event. The night starts off with an opening routine with all of the remaining girls. Then, all of the girls perform a dance two by two in front of about 15 judges, followed by an interview and even a swimsuit competition. “That’s actually the fun part!” says Coben.

Those who make it through that tryout move onto a two-week boot camp, after which the squad makes its final cuts.

In addition to the rigorous practice schedule for two or more times per week for three hours, plus cheering on game day, Coben is an account executive for a promotions management company in Cincinnati. One requirement for becoming a Bengals cheerleader is either having a full-time job or being a full-time student.

Once Coben set the goal, she had to balance the demands of her job with months of preparation to get in shape, brush up on dance classes, attending clinics, selecting outfits. “It was exhausting, but worth every second,” says Coben.

“We have to weigh in every Tuesday and Thursday before practice,” she says.  “If someone doesn’t make weight, there’s a chance they won’t be cheering in that game!”

The Ben-Gals cheer for top players like A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Andy Dalton, but they aren’t allowed to date them. Coben says that they work alongside the players at certain events but that’s as far as the relationship can go.

Lauren Coben cheers on the black and orange. We Steelers fans forgive her!

Coben grew up dancing at Borelli’s Dance Gallery on Library Road and cheered for all four years of her Mt. Lebanon High School career.

“I grew up in places that truly embraced school spirit, especially when it comes to football. NFL cheerleading is a combination of both of these elements, and I am truly so thankful for this opportunity,” she says.

What about her hometown Pittsburgh Steelers? Coben says that the Steelers vs. Bengals game will be one of the best nights of her life.

Sharon Coben, a resident of Lebanon Hills Drive, says that they will always be Steelers fans even though their daughter cheers on the Bengals.

“I have a Steelers shirt and a Bengals shirt that has been cut in half and sewn together to show my support for my daughter while I am cheering for the Steelers.”

 —Shay Badolato