Ryan Martin O’Connor says “Pressure is a privilege”, ready to lead the Kentucky Cheerleading Program

O'Connor coached at UAB, Ole Miss and WKU before coming to the University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky (WTVQ) – Back in 2008, Ryan Martin O’Connor was a freshman cheerleader at Kentucky. Fast forward 12 years and she’s the program’s new head coach. She’s taking over for Jomo Thompson who was fired last month. O’Connor says this is her dream job, but she’s taking over the program amid controversy. Was their any hesitation to apply? In one word, No.
“As soon as I saw that they were going to be looking for a new coach my husband and I said this was the dream. No hesitations at all,” said O’Connor as she addressed the media for the first Monday morning. “Really excited about everyone here that’s been in the program and also to move it forward.”
O’Connor would end transferring to the University of Alabama where she’d win two national titles. She’s taking over a program who has won 24 national titles. The pressure would be there if there were no drama, but now the spotlight is even brighter with how Jomo’s tenure ended and she says bring it on.
“I think pressure is a privilege,” said O’Connor. “It’s something I always say to my athletes and it’s something that I really believe being able to even be under pressure means you’ve done something right to be in the spotlight or to be in that position so I really do think of it as that.”
Pressure is something O’Connor says she’s been around her whole life. She’s not wrong. She’s been on cheerleading reality shows twice. Once as a high school cheerleader at Dunbar with her mom Donna Martin who’s very well-known in the cheer world. Then again last summer when she coached at Ole Miss before heading to coach at Western Kentucky. She also has gold medals when cheering for Team USA. This is a different challenge and she’s reached out for help. Who better than someone who has been in her shoes? She’s cheered for former UK head coach Salem Habash and worked with former UK assistant David McDowell. She says she’s talked to all of them for advice including Jomo Thompson.
“I had already reached out to David and Saleem about their advice just with the University of Kentucky and what they could do and I’ve already talked to Jomo just in the last two weeks just about what it really means to be here,” said O’Connor. “Obviously, I have an understanding of it, but it certainly means something different to everybody that comes through this program an athlete or a coach. I know that I have big shoes to fill, but I also know that I can do it with their help and will all the knowledge that I gained just through my time as a cheerleader and a coach.”
Next up, tryouts. O’Connor and other former UK cheerleaders will review video submissions and hopefully announce the new team by July 10th. She says she’s already started to interview coaches fur her staff, but won’t finalize it until after tryouts.
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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com