Soccer and Life: The Martin Lessons

Jay Martin coaches the OWU men’s soccer team during the 2011 NCAA Division III Soccer Championships semifinal round. (Photo by John Albright)

Throughout the United States, former Ohio Wesleyan soccer players, and in fact, the entire OWU family, are celebrating the success of this year’s team and its coach, Dr. Jay Martin.

Tonight, the team won the University’s second national championship—and Martin became the country’s all-time winningest men’s soccer coach in any NCAA division, with 608 victories.

Along the way, Martin’s teams have compiled an astonishing record of success: 20 North Coast Athletic Conference championships in the 28 years of conference play; 12 regional titles, nine of them coming in the last 15 seasons that the NCAA tournament has included regional play; an NCAA record of 18 Division III tournament berths from 1978-1995; 19 Stu Parry Awards, which recognize Ohio’s top Division III team; and a career winning percentage of .819.

In 1998, the Battling Bishops won the NCAA Division III national championship. They’ve reached the semifinals of the tournament nine times, finishing as national runner-up twice.

Martin himself has been Regional Coach of the Year 15 times in his 34 years at OWU and was National Coach of the Year in 1991 and 1998. He received the Ohio Collegiate Soccer Association’s Honor Award in 2000 and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s (NSCAA) Honor Award in 2007.

Martin focuses on education, both on and off the field. As he mentioned this fall at the event celebrating his 600th victory, during his Ohio Wesleyan tenure, only three of his players haven’t graduated—“and two of them are millionaires, so I guess they learned something.”

This year’s team has a cumulative GPA of 3.4, and Martin’s teams have received NSCAA All-Academic Honors in eight of the last 10 years. Three men’s soccer players have been selected as Academic All-America® of the Year and OWU has had 18 Academic All-America selections. Of the six prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships that have been awarded to Ohio Wesleyan scholar-athletes in the last five years, one-third have been earned by members of the men’s soccer teams.

Impressive as these numbers are, they’re just data. What really matters is what happens to students after they leave the University; in the case of men’s soccer, the record is exceptional.

And when you listen to the words of former players, you get a sense of what Jay has meant—and still means—to the men he has coached and mentored through the years.

From Los Angeles to New York, from Atlanta to Chicago, and from Winston-Salem to Denver, the alumni who have populated Jay’s teams are successful doctors, dentists, lawyers, business executives, consultants, tech wizards, financial services advisers, designers, project managers, ministers, and more than a fair share of teachers and coaches. They credit the lessons they learned from Jay as stepping stones to their own accomplishments.

Those lessons include the values of:

Responsibility: “Jay prepared us physically and mentally to compete on a high level, but ultimately he taught us that we were the ones responsible for … making good decisions and executing up to our potential.” Vic Misiewicz ’82, Regional Sales Executive, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia; and WellPoint, Inc.,Atlanta, Georgia

Tradition: “This great soccer tradition was handed to us from earlier generations, but we had to make it ours … and I have modeled my coaching on Jay’s because the way Jay coaches is the way it should be done.” Domenic Romanelli, ’87, Head Coach, St. Francis de Sales High School, Columbus, Ohio

Caring: “Jay has a holistic view of sport as a mirror for life. Academics and being a good person matter.” Jay Vidovich ’82, Head Coach, Men’s Soccer, Wake Forest University, two-time National Coach of the Year, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (from the Columbus Dispatch)

Goal Setting: He taught us … the importance of having high standards, the need to chase improvement every day, [and] the value of hard work. Peter Pak ’90, Partner, The Decatur Group, Denver, Colorado

Family: “The biggest life lessons I took from Jay are about dedication and family … [Jay and his wife, Jo Ann] were dedicated to each other, to their children, to their jobs, and to their communities. … Whether or not they were aware of it at the time, they were setting an example for us … that has lasted well beyond our years at Ohio Wesleyan.” Keith Rozanski ’99, Attorney, Haight Brown & Bonesteel, LLP, Los Angeles, California

Martin, whom his players would name the consummate coach, says he’s not there yet. In an interview with a local newspaper reporter, he said he had not quite measured up to his own father and to John Barker, one of his high school coaches.

“In my mind, I haven’t reached the level where you can characterize me as ‘coach.’ ” The alumni who were in the stands at Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio, those watching in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center at Ohio Wesleyan, and those glued to the stream in their homes would disagree.

If the measure of a coach is that he has a profound effect on the next generation—and that generation affects the next—Martin has climbed the pinnacle.

As Obi Moneme, M.D.’96 said, “[Martin] has made OWU soccer a family that stretches across the years … and I’ve been honored to call him coach—and friend—for years.”

Congratulations to the team and to Martin for their exceptional accomplishments!

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