Perseverance pays off for Isohata’s NBA cheerleading dream

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Yoshimi Isohata took a bit of a detour. But she has no regrets and feels blessed to have this Golden opportunity.

After enduring a difficult but fruitful time last season, the 26-year-old Japanese cheerleader has returned to the Golden State Warriors’ cheerleading team, the Warrior Girls, this time as a full-squad member for the upcoming NBA campaign.

Isohata vividly described the exciting, precise moment that she saw her picture and name on the club’s official Web site on July 24 while she was at San Francisco International Airport on her return trip to Japan.

“I kept refreshing the page from 10 minutes before the announcement, which was supposed to come at noon,” Isohata joked in Tokyo last week. “I became worried because it wouldn’t appear . . . But eventually it came in about 10 past 12!”

Isohata participated in the cheerleading auditions for the Warriors last year but didn’t make the final cut. Neverthless, she was allowed to be with the team as an intern.

This wasn’t Isohata’s original plan, but she had certainly reached the point where she dreamed of being for the upcoming season.

Isohata confessed that although she knew what she would have to go through during the four-day auditions, which she says kicked off with some 130 applicants in mid-July, she still had some jitters because there are no clear “answers” to pass the tryout.

“Every year the director sets principles and applies new things,” said Isohata, who was formerly a cheerleader for the All-Mitsubishi Lions of the Japanese corporate football league while working at an insurance company. “So you need some luck, and you can’t really predict what you’ve got to do in order to pass. There are no formulas as in mathematics.”

But this much is certain: Isohata’s fellow Warrior Girls realize her dedication to the team has made a big impact.

“I definitely think she’s actually made us all work harder because she practices so much and she’ll stay after practice (and) she’ll be there early learning,” Shania Yamada, who made the 2009-10 squad for her fourth straight year, said of Isohata during the team’s visit to the bj-league finals in May.

“And I think her morale toward everything has motivated us to want to be on top of all of our routines,too.”

Finally, Isohata, who spent parts of her childhood in Osaka, Singapore and Dalian, China, showed no negative feelings about taking a circuitous route to becoming a professional cheerleader in America. Instead, she appears to appreciate that she gained precious experience and now looks forward to her latest challenge in life.

“This is just the start line,” she concluded. “I still have things that I have to work on, while I’m very much looking forward to many things, including visiting places that I couldn’t go last season, looking forward to community activities and events exchanging with the fans. It’s going to be a rewarding year for me.”