Find Your Passion: From Cheering Champions to Becoming One
By Ashley Hogan
Ryan Martin has cheered on several championship-winning sports teams at The University of Alabama as a member of UA’s varsity cheerleading squad. Now, she’s become a champion of sorts herself, with a blossoming career in sports journalism.
Martin, a UA senior from Lexington, Ky., says her interest in journalism took off after her high school cheerleading squad was featured on a reality TV series, “Cheerleader Nation” that aired on Lifetime when she was 16.
As the show became popular, Martin helped promote it on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “LIVE With Regis and Kelly” and other shows based in New York City. Although one of the youngest girls on the team, Martin was voted by the seniors to speak on the news shows. Martin says she is grateful to them because this deepened her passion for communication.
Later, Inside Cheerleading magazine approached her about writing about her experiences.
Martin now writes for Inside Cheerleading featuringRyan’s Reality, a monthly column to inform others of her activities, offer advice and encourage others to get involved. She also has a blog onwww.AmericaNeedsCheerleaders.com.
“Without cheerleading, I wouldn’t have realized my passion for communicating with others through broadcast and print,” Martin says.
Inside Cheerleading is one of the top cheerleading magazines in the industry and, in working with Martin, helped bring more national attention to UA.
“Everyone in cheerleading had heard all about Kentucky’s program and what it was like to really cheer there, but Alabama still remained in the dark,” Martin says. “Now, people all across the nation can pick up a magazine and learn more about Alabama cheerleading, which is great for our program.”
Martin had the opportunity to represent the country as a part of Team USA in 2011 and competed in the World Competition again in April. Martin describes her ability to represent the country in the sport she loves as “a dream come true.”
“It was a humbling experience to see how much other countries look up to the USA and how badly they want to learn from us,” Martin says.
After a year cheering at UK, Martin had the opportunity to transfer to UA on a cheerleading scholarship after speaking with former head coach David McDowell. The competitive rivalry between the UA and UK cheerleading programs made the move even more difficult, she said. Both teams have battled between the top two places at UCA College Nationals for the past five years.
The decision also meant leaving behind her family – die-hard Kentucky fans who did not initially approve of her decision.
For Martin, it was a difficult decision.
“Moving away from home was a learning experience that I encourage everyone to do. It forced me to become even more independent, thick-skinned and stronger than ever. Fortunately, everything worked out for the best, and these three years at UA have been the best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade cheering at UA for any of it.”
In the past three years at UA, Martin has cheered at two national football championships and won a national cheerleading championship. Her family has grown to love and appreciate UA, she says, for the experiences it has provided her.
She expressed gratitude to her mother, her high school cheerleading coach, for motivating her to strive for the best in everything she does.
“She is the hardest worker I have ever met, and the way that she loves everyone unconditionally is truly inspiring,” Martin says. “I would say I lived my life successfully if I can look back and be half the woman she is.”
In addition to her full-time studies, Martin devotes her time to writing blogs — between cheerleading practice, workouts, games and homework.
“Working on a deadline and coming up with topics that I think readers will like has been challenging and exciting all at the same time.”
Martin’s interest in writing about cheerleading has helped her promote good in the community – allowing her the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity, Lighthouse Ministries, AmericaNeedsCheerleaders.com, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and more.
Martin says reaching out and working with people in her community has helped her become a voice for her cheerleading program.
“In high school, if people saw the Dunbar cheerleaders getting involved, they wanted to help, too,” Martin says. “You don’t realize how much you mean to your community until you get involved.”
Martin is interning with Inside Cheerleading this summer in Atlanta, Ga.
“Working with Inside has been an incredible opportunity for me and being able to work in the office this summer is a big step,” says Martin. “I have the opportunity to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work of putting a magazine together and what it is like to have a real job.”
Following her December graduation, the journalism and American studies double-major hopes to begin a career involving both journalism and cheerleading. Following her six-year-stint with the magazine, Inside Cheerleading has offered Martin a paid, permanent position following commencement.
“Both have been such an important part of my life so far that I can’t imagine leaving them behind,” Martin says.
“Without writing for them, I wouldn’t have been able to get my name out there and realize what I love to do.”
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Ashley Hogan is a UA graduate from Florence, with a major in public relations. She served as a student writer for UA Media Relations during the spring 2012 semester and was a member of UA’s Varsity Cheerleaders.
This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions..