Donna Martin, head coach of the legendary Dunbar High School cheerleading teams located in Lexington, Kentucky, spoke with Inside Cheerleading about her team’s stellar season and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Dunbar cheer family at present time, including next year’s tryouts, as well as their positive outlook on the future!

Tell us about your 2019-2020 season. By all accounts, it looked tremendously successful again! 

The 2019-2020 Dunbar Cheer team was a joy to coach! Their work ethic, spirit, and sportsmanship was exactly what any coach would desire. They won our state sectional competition, placed second in the state, and finished 11th in UCA NHSAA finals after a fall. The JV team finished 3rd in Worlds at UCA. All these things were accomplished after losing 12 seniors from the previous year. 

What was the initial response of the team, especially your Seniors, knowing their school year and any end-of-year activities might be cancelled or postponed?

I don’t think any of us realized that the dismissal of school on March 16 would lead to such a long absence from school. Everyone is still holding out hope for a return to school, even if for a few days. The team started sending us texts: “Do you think Prom will be canceled? Do you think graduation will be canceled?” Unfortunately, I told them to prepare for this. The team is constantly sending out cheer videos and memories from the past year. Coaches, too.

What is your tryout process for 2020-21 at present time? A lot of teams are moving towards, or discussing holding virtual tryouts, or even having video submissions considered…

We have prepared for virtual tryouts. We are just waiting for the administration to give us the “Okay” to publish. We have provided all the paperwork necessary for Dunbar Athletes online so that they can be prepared. Coaches have met and prepared a calendar outline for the 2029-2021 season and we are ready to get this year started. 

How are you staying in touch with your athletes?

Dunbar Cheer has started using the Band App more than texting. Videos are so easy to load there. We have sent workouts, along with Booster information through this app. Seniors are preparing sidelines videos and we have sent the fight song video through this app. 

Have you been encouraging them through online workouts, Zoom “meetings” etc. at all?

We are preparing a Zoom meeting for next week. We are sending out a dance we are creating for our annual youth clinic fundraiser. Coaches are also preparing a virtual banquet. We have created some light-hearted awards (some very funny!) to give out live on Instagram later this month. We also created a special graduation gift for our seniors using uniforms. It’s top secret at this point. We are very proud of it. The Boosters have  Zoom meetings scheduled in order to prepare for next year. 

As a coach, you’ve probably experienced everything you could have imagined in your career up until now. Is there an upside you can share as we all work through these challenging times?

I think there is definitely an upside to the situation as much as it has created a delayed start for the new season. The team has learned to appreciate the opportunity to be together and are anxious and eager to learn new things. They have become better and more creative thinkers. Teammates are figuring out ways to encourage each other and ways to teach each other. Two girls even decided to create a highlight video with material teammates and coaches have sent them. This is also an excellent time to set team goals as well as individual goals.  

As with most of us, you often never truly appreciate things in life until you lose them. 

Photos courtesy of Donna Martin and Dunbar High School