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The World Cup is in full swing and with more and more Americans interested in the games, we are shining this Expert Spotlight on Jay Martin, head coach of men’s soccer with Ohio Wesleyan University.
Martin is the winningest coach in college men’s soccer history, with a total of 640 wins. He has been the NCAA Regional Coach of the Year 15 times in his 37 years at Ohio Wesleyan and was named NSCAA National Coach of the Year in 1991, 1998, and 2011.
In 2000, Martin received the Ohio Collegiate Soccer Association’s Honor Award, only the fourth time that award was bestowed since the association’s founding in 1949. He also received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Honor Award in 2007.
Martin has a diverse background that includes basketball, soccer, and volleyball. A native of Hingham, Mass., Martin received his B.A. degree from Springfield College in 1971. He lettered in soccer and lacrosse, earning All-America laurels in the latter. He also played soccer for the Kaiserwerth Club in Germany, played professional basketball, and served on the staff of the Volleyball Pavilion at the 1972 Olympics.
We sat down with Martin to learn more about the sport and get his prediction of who will win this year’s World Cup.
Which sport is your favorite, soccer or basketball?
Both are special, and they are very similar: speed, skill, teamwork. Soccer is much more difficult. Can you imagine the score if basketball played for 90 minutes?
You are the winningest coach in college men’s soccer history. To what do you attribute that?
There are two things: I have been fortunate to have had very good players at Ohio Wesleyan University, and I am very old! It has been easy to recruit for such a good academic institution.
Do you have any advice for young soccer players who want to improve their game?
Young players must learn to practice better — not always harder, but better. They must go to practice each day with the goal of getting better. They must focus on the exercises and understand how and why the exercise will help them become better. We do not practice well in this country. The players must accept the burden of getting better.
Why does soccer, despite being one of the most popular sports in the world, still lack a bigger following in the U.S.?
The simple answer is that soccer is un-American. In the 1800s, immigrants came to this country to get away from Europe and everything European. Then there was WWI and WWII and more anti-European sentiment. And Americans like to do things we do well — and soccer, although better, is not one of those things. Finally, we like to play American games, games that we “invented” — basketball, volleyball, football, baseball, etc. We are making strides. It is great to see the reaction to the World Cup.
I have to ask: What’s your prediction for which team will win this year’s World Cup?
Although difficult to do — in fact, it has never been done — I think a European team will win in South America. My pick is Germany. They are a great “tournament team.” They have been successful in international competition.
What are you working on now?
I just finished editing my third book for the NSCAA and have started another book about coaching and leadership. It should be done by the end of 2014. I am also working on a “new” type of camp for young soccer players — a soccer psychology camp. I have already tried two and they are going well.
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