Courtside at London Olympics

Courtside at London Olympics

Imagine having a courtside seat to watch Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant try to help USA Basketball retain the gold medal in basketball in the Summer Olympics.

Even now, on the verge of traveling to London to cheer in the 2012 Summer Olympics, UCF graduate and former national champion Jackie Martin is having a hard time describing just how lucky she is to get the chance to watch Kobe, LeBron and KD in action on the world’s biggest basketball stage. But that’s just what Martin will do as part of a professional cheer unit working at the Olympics in London.

`It’s almost an indescribable feeling knowing that we’ll be right there for those games,” said Martin, who got her undergrad from UCF in 2006 and her masters in 2008. “Another one of my girlfriends sits next to me at work and we talk about going to London all of the time. We’re going to get to watch the best athletes in the world compete for a gold medal and it’s going to be an indescribable experience.”

Martin, a four-year cheerleading letterwinner at UCF, was a member of the Knights’ 2003 National Championship team. She has parlayed cheering into a career, working for Varsity – a company that organizes cheerleading camps and provides performers for various sporting events all over the world. Cheerleading has already taken Martin to Poland, Scotland, Denmark, Colombia, Australia, China, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico. And next up — London — after she, stunt partner, David Clemens and 14 others were selected to perform during the semifinals and finals of the basketball events at the Summer Olympics.

Martin, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., is still amazed to this day that she has been able to pursue her passion of cheerleading and make a career out of it.

“I talk to my dad about this a lot and I can’t believe that I’m doing this for a living. When I went to UCF and was cheering I never realized all of the lessons that I was learning, especially working for (UCF spirit team coach) Linda (Gooch),” Martins said. “One of the cool things about my job is that I’ve done cheerleading all over the world. In 2010, I was on Team USA for cheerleading and we won a gold medal. I am the luckiest person in the world. We have the best life-slash-job ever.”

Remarkably, Martin isn’t the only one to be able to use the skills she learned in the UCF cheer program in her career. UCF’s powerhouse program has alumni working in some of the biggest venues in the United States. To wit:

  • Lauren Whitt, a four-year letterman and a member of the 2007 National Championship team, and Keith Gross, a three-year letter-winner, are performing in “Bring It On Broadway” at the St. James Theatre in New York.
  • Tim Johnson (a four-year letterman and a member of the 2007 championship team), Brian White (’07 champion, four-year letterman) and Amber Dutenhoffer (a three-year letter-winner) are a part of La Reve in Las Vegas.

Martins said her success and that of several other UCF products is because of the life lessons and discipline taught by Gooch. Martins said being a part of the UCF program shaped her core beliefs because there is so much more being taught than just cheerleading techniques. Much of that credit should go to Gooch, Martin said.

“Linda doesn’t just think about us being cheerleaders, but what we’re going to do the rest of our lives,” Martin said. “She teaches us that school is the most important and she teaches us etiquette, talking to people properly and how to go through job interviews. She creates incredible people coming out of that program. She shapes us and everyone that comes out of the UCF cheer program comes out so much more than just a cheerleader.”

Martin still fondly remembers her time at UCF and said there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t think back to 2003 when UCF broke onto the national stage and won the school’s first-ever national championship.

“I was a freshman and didn’t know too much about what was happening at the time, but being on that team was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “To this day, the girls on that team are still my best friends. Not only did we win a national title, but we did it together. It was a night that none of us will ever forget.”

And she figures that cheering at the Olympics alongside Bryant, James, Durant and others will be a similar feeling.

“We are so excited and I still can’t believe that I’m going to the Olympics,” she said. “It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”