Catherina Chang Joins the Gold Rush By Bobbie Lee, Asian Week August 6, 1993
SARATOGA, Calif. – Hands were everywhere reaching out for autographs and Catherina (aka Kitty) who had just become a member of The Gold Rush, the cheerleading dance team for the 49ers, was totally overwhelmed. Chang had watched the crowd zero in on 49ers players for autographs after playing softball against the Santa Rosa Police Department. When the crowd sought autographs from the cheerleading team too, it became a totally new experience for her.
After many months as part of The Gold Rush, Chang is now enjoying her star status, which comes along with the job. Her face will soon be seen on football trading cards along with other members of The Gold Rush, and there will be a 1994 calendar of the women, said Angela King Mathias, the director of the team.
Cheerleading dance teams are contracted by several NFL teams to support them. The Gold Rush is comprised of 33 women hired and trained by 49ers Entertainment/USA Productions, a family operation which produces the show for all the 49ers home games.
The cheerleading dance team entertains football fans at pre-game performances, quarter breaks, half time and at the side lines. Besides the show, The Gold Rush adds to the image of the 49ers organization.
49ers Entertainment/USA Productions has been holding tryouts for girls interested in being part of The Gold Rush. “This year, 200 girls came out for tryouts at Santa Clara University gymnasium,” said Mathias. Usually 20 are chosen from last year’s team and the rest of the girls are new.”
Chang made her first tryout in 1992 and went all the way to the finals. This year she was delighted to be chosen. “During the first tryout, which lasted from 8-5PM, we were taught dance routines and then we performed in groups of three before judges,” said Chang.
After being selected, dancers were put under the care of Mathias. Every Saturday, they spend five hours practicing old and new routines, which are mostly crowd-pleasing jazz and novelty routines. The cheerleaders have to know their routines well enough to perform above the noise of the crowd when the music cannot be heard.
When Chang 19, a beginning third year political science student at Santa Clara University, was selected last April to be a member of The Gold Rush, she was elated. “Never in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that I would one day be performing at 49ers games,” she said. “To me, the 49ers is the football team of the decade and it is an honor to be a part of their organization.”
Chang finds that being a cheerleader at football and basketball games at Lynbrook High School in San Jose was nothing compared to being a part of a professional cheerleading dance team. “Everything is on a much larger scale,” she indicated. “Many people perceive being part of The Gold Rush as very glamorous, but to learn and perfect all dance routines is very hard work and requires dedication,” noted Chang.
Chang is highly excited at the thought of being able to perform at 49ers games before large crowds of 60,000 and more. “There is something magical about performing before a crowd. The emotions that go through my body keep me on a natural high,” said Chang.
On August 1st, the 49ers will be in Barcelona, Spain to play their first exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the American Bowl. It will be Chang’s first game performance with The Gold Rush. Members of The Gold Rush are paid $50.00 for performances at home games plus appearance fees. “This year, the 49ers will be playing eight home games at Candlestick Park,” said Chang.
Chang loves being a member of The Gold Rush, but her ambition in life is to be a diplomat. She hopes to have a chance to study in Washington, D.C. via a program offered at Santa Clara University. She also hopes to acquire an internship as an aid where she can work alongside congressmen and senators.