University City

New coach leads team to championship competition in Florida

Northside Christian Academy's cheerleaders will compete in the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders 2012 National Christian Cheer Championships in Orlando, Fla., in January.

The 23rd annual championship will be Jan. 5-7 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. Cheerleading squads from Christian schools throughout the country will compete in the three-day event. This year's championships will be the first for the Knights.

First-year cheerleading coach Alfredo Martinez brings more than 25 years of gymnastics and cheerleading coaching experience to Northside and said he is excited to lead the program in a new direction.

"We are going for experience, to get our name out there, build the program and do our best," said Martinez.

Two individual cheerleaders, Lauren Doby and Sarah Beck, will enter the dual competition, where they will compete against other duos from around the country.

Doby said the team has been much more serious since Martinez started working with them in mid-August, and his influence is beginning to rub off on them.

Martinez started coaching as a volunteer recreation cheerleading and gymnastics instructor at a Florida YMCA. He soon wanted a bigger challenge and opened the Florida Gymnastics Training Center in Kendall, Fla.

He started working with gymnasts ages 5 to 14, finding great early success. His gymnasts' efforts were rewarded with several awards and top all-around finishes.

In 1990, from his Florida training center, Martinez opened Tri-Star Gymnastics, which grew from 25 students to nearly 200 a month. In 1995, Martinez started one co-ed cheerleading team with 16 members, called Miami Elite All-Stars. The Miami Elite All-Stars had a lot of early success, and by 1998 they had won their first state title. Soon after, the junior team won a national co-ed championship. Those titles established Miami Elite as one of the top names in the cheerleading industry.

After coaching stops at Dade (Fla.) Christian and Florida Bible, Martinez is entering his first season with the Knights.

Having coached nationally ranked cheerleaders, Martinez said he is excited to start fresh with Northside and turn the Knights into a team that can compete on a national level.

Although he has been at the school for only a few months, he said he is impressed with how quickly the team is learning and picking up new skills. "A couple of the girls are close to perfecting their back handsprings," said Martinez, "and there are many others who are going to get it this year."