For 2 NFL Cheerleaders, Football is Family

Posted Feb 21, 2017

Lizzi and Leah Kongsvik share two passions that have played a significant part in their lives from a young age: football and dance.

The girls’ parents first enrolled them in dance classes when Lizzi was 7 and Leah was 3. The sisters fell in love with the sport, each taking classes and competing through high school.

The Kongsviks were also Vikings season ticket members, and Lizzi and Leah remember going to games at the Metrodome when they were young, being equally mesmerized by the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders and the game itself.

“We loved football, but as a dancer, you really look up to the women on the field cheering for their favorite team,” Lizzi said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Years later, the sisters are now the ones on the NFL sidelines: Lizzi wearing Broncos orange, and Leah in Vikings purple.

Though they cheer for teams more than 700 miles apart, a shared experience has formed an even stronger bond between the sisters.

“You wouldn’t know there’s a four-year age gap between us, because we’re so close,” said Lizzi, whose professional roots started in the Twin Cities.

Lizzi was a Timberwolves dancer for five seasons, during which she cheered at more than 200 home games. While feeding her passion for dance in the NBA, Lizzi also worked for the Vikings as a Premium Sales and Service Coordinator during the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It was definitely a fun time to be a part of the organization as a whole,” Lizzi said.

Prior to the 2015 NFL season, Lizzi made the decision to move from Minneapolis to Denver after visiting the city for a close friend’s birthday. Lizzi attended a prep class for the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders tryouts while in Colorado and decided to pursue her lifelong goal of cheering in the NFL.

Before she knew it, Lizzi had earned a spot on the 2015 roster in addition to landing a full-time job with a multi-faceted digital media company.

“When I was deciding if I was going to make the move from Minnesota to Colorado, one of my biggest concerns was that I still wanted to be involved in sports business,” Lizzi said. “I love the environment, I love sports, and getting to work with other people who shared that passion was something I wanted to continue.”

Although Leah said it’s sometimes difficult to have her sister no longer living nearby, she holds a high level of respect and admiration for Lizzi after the move.

“Lizzi has always been someone I’ve looked up to – she’s just so amazing and resilient,” Leah said. “To see her do that and not just get by but to thrive and really succeed has been really cool for me.

“She’s been a great influence and strong person in my life when I’m having problems or I’m not feeling confident about something,” Leah continued. “She’ll tell me, ‘You can do it. I know you can.’ And I trust her.”

Lizzi was especially supportive of Leah joining the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders for the 2016 season. According to Leah, her rookie season proved to be an unforgettable experience and one she can’t imagine taking on without her older sister there to offer advice and support.

Leah said she’s often looked to Lizzi for input on balancing a busy cheerleading schedule with other aspects of life.

“To have somebody I know that’s done it for so long as a reference, it’s been really nice,” said Leah, who previously spent four years on the nationally recognized University of Minnesota dance team.

While exchanging experiences, the sisters have discovered both similarities and differences between the two teams’ programs, and Leah and Lizzi have been able to share insights with each other and with their teammates.

Broncos Director of Cheerleading Shawna Peters said that Lizzi has been able to bring a valuable perspective to the DBC team because of her relationship with Leah.

“Aside from football being family, the NFL cheerleading world is a family unto itself,” Peters said. “Lizzi gave us a unique window into one of the teams in the league we admire.  We can all grow by knowing what others do in our industry, and Lizzi was happy to share her sister’s experiences and observations.”  

Both Lizzi and Leah look back and feel incredibly grateful for their debut seasons in the NFL.

In 2015, Lizzi was able to cheer for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The following year, Leah helped to usher in the inaugural Vikings season at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“The stadium is so beautiful – it’s really a piece of art,” Leah said. “To get to be there and in the first season is something that I’ll never forget – I’ll take that wherever I go.”

Leah said being a member of the MVC has been “everything and more that I could have wanted.”

Tami Krause, Head Coach and Director of Cheerleading for the Minnesota Vikings, expressed an equal amount of enthusiasm for Leah’s first season with the Vikings.

“There is a great sisterhood between team members on the MVC,” Krause said. “Having Leah join the team has been an incredible blessing. She is such a talented performer and has a tremendous passion for the Vikings.”

Added Krause: “It’s even more meaningful to witness the sisterhood jump across team lines and to see siblings supporting each other’s successes in differing programs.  Watching them share their love for being a part of the NFL is special.”

According to Leah, what especially she especially noticed upon first making the team was the positive atmosphere she stepped into.

“I really liked being on a team that [promotes] bettering yourself to better the whole team,” Leah said. “I think this was the perfect transition from being on a college dance team and continuing to use dance as a hobby that fuels my passion. It was fun to continue doing that while also working on things with myself that translate into my everyday life and career.”

As much as Leah enjoyed her first season with the Vikings, Lizzi equally reveled in seeing her sister succeed.

Lizzi traveled back to Minnesota during the Broncos bye week to attend the Vikings-Cardinals game on Nov. 20 and support Leah. Of the seven years Lizzi has danced professionally herself, seeing her younger sister in action stands out as a highlight.

“I’m just really excited for Leah,” Lizzi said. “It was so great to see her on the field. She popped up on the scoreboard, and I’m just her biggest fan – ‘There’s my sister!’

“I’m really proud of her,” Lizzi added. “She’s pursuing her dreams, and I get to kind of take a back seat and be a part of it from the sidelines, but I’m also in it with her, as well.”