A new Lifetime television series will feature Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School’s veteran cheerleading coach Donna Martin and her daughter, Ole Miss cheerleading coach Ryan O’Connor.
The series ‘Cheerleader Generation’, which is scheduled to debut at 10pm ET/PT June 11, “ follows the lives of two squads and their fierce, hardworking coaches,” Martin and O’Connor, who coaches University of Mississippi cheerleaders, according to a network statement.
“While veteran coach Donna pushes her team to new heights to return Dunbar to its former glory of reigning champs, Ryan is fighting to earn the respect of her peers, her collegiate team and her mother,” the statement said. “The stakes are high as Donna and Ryan also compete to be the first ever mother-daughter coaches going after national championship titles in the same year. “
Ten one-hour episodes have been ordered to air this year on Lifetime.
It is not the first time that Martin, who has won eight national championships in her more than 30 years as a cheerleading coach, and O’Connor, have appeared together in a Lifetime series. About 13 years ago, when O’Connor cheered for her mother at Dunbar, the network aired a reality television show that featured the Dunbar cheerleading team called “Cheerleader Nation.”
The coaches told the Herald-Leader Thursday that a producer on the original show, Laurie Girion, reached back out to them recently and suggested that since O’Connor was also coaching, it would be a good idea to revisit them. Martin said another producer Karri-Leigh P. Mastrangelo would also be involved for a second time.
Knowing that the show’s producers “respected the sport of cheerleading and respected us as people” encouraged them to embark on a second series, said O’Connor, now 29.
“I’m really excited about watching us going toward the national championship, both me for college and her for high school,” O’Connor said of her mother.
“I think a lot of people are going to enjoy seeing the real life stories that these people have and cheering is what brings them all together,” O’Connor said. “Lexington is such a huge cheerleading city in a big cheerleading state.”
She said the show would also give people in Mississippi “the chance to see the hard work that the Ole Miss cheerleaders really do behind the scenes.”
Martin said the athletes she works with “have a real strong passion for the sport and its not just about a competition.”
“It’s about being part of a team. It gives these kids a sense of belonging to their school. It gives them another family to be a part of. Every kid should be a part of something, I don’t care what it is.”
“Everyone needs a little support from another group,” Martin said, “cheerleading can be that for some kids.”