Photos by: Oscar Herrera
Game Day is a nerve-racking yet exciting event for a Cougar Doll such as Jocelynn Luna.
She starts the day by waking up around 8 a.m. to eat some breakfast. Then around 10 a.m., it’s time to get glammed up in her dance attire. This process takes up to an hour and a half. If call time isn’t too soon, Luna grabs some Flipz and C4 to keep her energized for the long day ahead. Then she joins her team to parade in front of the band complex.
“It’s exciting to me because it’s almost like a preview before the game of how busy the crowd is,” Luna said. “I love to see all the fans.”
Right before they go out to the field, Luna and her team warm up by practicing their halftime routine. Her heart races as she psyches herself out to perform.
“My nerves are usually a little worked up,” Luna said. “But I feel like once I hit the field, they all go away, and I just get so excited to see all the Houston fans show up and support the football team.”
Having bad nerves before a game might be surprising for a dancer of Luna’s stature. A liberal studies junior with a minor in kinesiology and dance, Luna is a talented 21-year-old dancer with 13 years of extensive training in various dance genres, such as jazz fusion, hip hop, lyrical and modern dance.
As a Cougar Doll, Luna’s favorite genre of dance is Pom.
“I really love Pom,” Luna said. “It just gets the adrenaline going, and it excites me. It’s like an energy drink but in dance form.”
Dance has always lifted her spirits. Luna realized her appreciation for the art of movement as a young child. Her mother, who was also a dancer, inspired her to dance.
“My mom did studio dancing when she was little, and then as soon as she got into high school, she did drill team,” Luna said. “She always put tapes on of her dancing, so I think watching her dance kind of sparked an interest for me to want to start dancing.”
With a vivacious enthusiasm to step into the dancing world, Luna began taking remedial dance classes at the tender age of seven. Winning was not the end-all-be-all whatsoever. She took her craft seriously. She honed her skills on the dance floor, training in ballet and tap.
Within two years, she advanced into competitive dance and started performing solo at national competitions. She also competed with her dance team at Navasota Middle School, and once enrolled in Navasota High School, she joined the drill team. Luna just wanted to dance all the time.
Then, she got accepted into Blinn College’s dance program, which exposed her to other styles of competitive dance. Blinn College was also the perfect choice for Luna due to its short distance from her hometown of Navasota. Being only 20 minutes away from her family’s residence, Luna was able to drive home from Brenham to visit her younger siblings.
The eldest of five, she grew up with extended family members, many of whom attended UH. One day she had an intriguing conversation with her cousin Omar that influenced her to consider attending UH.
“My cousin Omar made an impact for me to come to UH,” Luna said. “He explained the traditions, the football games and Cougar Dolls. It made me interested in UH, so I started coming over to UH for the dance clinics to see if I had (the) potential to make the team.”
Luna’s exceptional skills impressed the coaches, and she soon received “a fast pass” to move into the final round and make the team. She’s loving her time at UH as a Cougar Doll.
“I love it; it’s amazing,” Luna said. “Everything is how I pictured. Being a Cougar Doll has led me to more opportunities outside of what I used to get because Houston is very big, and UH offers a lot of opportunities.”
Opportunities that she feels she wouldn’t have if it weren’t for her dance coaches. She specifically notes the positive influence of her dance coach at Expressions Dance and Studio Melissa McDonald, whom Luna describes as “a complete role model.”
“She’s taught me how to discipline myself and take the initiative to practice outside of dance practice,” Luna said. “She’s also a very supportive woman, and I believe, because of where I am today, I can look at her and thank her.”
Luna is also appreciative of her dance coach Sarah Barland Flisowski who trained her during her time as a Blinn College Treasure for her “tough love.”
“I really want to thank her for that,” Luna said. “I feel like that also made me grow some alligator skin to take on critiques and discipline from other coaches.”
Luna, who is expected to graduate in 2025, wants to become a coach herself one day because she’s always wanted to teach dance. Her big dream is to become a high school drill team director, and she’s open to becoming an assistant coach at a college.
For now, though, Luna is enjoying the high of being a Cougar Doll and making Houston sports fans happy on game days.
“I would say my favorite part about being a Cougar Doll is honestly representing the Spirit of Houston,” Luna said. “I get to see people and see how their faces light up and instantly just get happy. Just seeing their face light up honestly is what makes my day and honestly just pushes me a little bit more.”