by Brandt A. Martin
Lubbock High School Assistant Coach Special Teams/Kicking Coordinator
Lubbock High School Head Soccer Coach
I am privileged to have the opportunity to write another blog entry for The Turnaround. While reading Coach Strunk’s latest blog, I felt it was important to go more in depth into the idea of treating your players as your own. Coach Strunk stressed the fact that he has only been a part of rebuilding programs, and I fall into the same category.
When Strunk hired me three years ago as Lubbock’s head soccer coach, I had no coaching experience. He took a risk, and allowed me to try my hand at coaching.
When I was hired, the soccer team had not had a winning record in over two decades. They had won a combined 5 or 6 games in the three years prior to my hiring. I learned immediately that in order to win, you have to convince your kids to trust you and to have interest in what you want to do. In my mind, I figured in order to develop relationships, I needed to focus on the high-risk athletes the most, and put much of my energy into them. I learned quickly that I was wrong.
When I was hired, my personal situation was weird, I had just recently finished my Master’s in Sport Management at Texas Tech University, and I was working for a business in Lubbock doing sales and marketing. I had never really considered coaching high school sports until I got a call from an acquaintance who told me about a soccer opening at Lubbock High.
Looking for a change I applied, was hired and entered into coaching with no idea what I was getting myself into. One of the very first relationships I developed was with a young man, Alexis “Alex” Loredo, who many of you have read about in the blog.
Alex is a two-sport athlete who played wide receiver in football and was my sweeper in soccer. He comes from a family where his mother and father are still married, his dad owns a very successful concrete company, and they are doing well financially.
When I first met Loredo, he and I hit it off. We immediately connected, and it felt as though he and I had known each other for a long time. Little did I realize at the time how important this bond and relationship would end up being.
Ups and Downs
Not long after I met Loredo, we learned that Loredo’s girlfriend was pregnant. It was the first time I had to deal with a serious life lesson with an athlete. Loredo was only a sophomore at the time. My wife and I were expecting a baby in October; Loredo and his girlfriend were expecting a baby in April. We walked through that process together.
We would communicate on a regular basis about his baby girl, and if he needed to miss practice because she was sick, we would work around it. Loredo rarely missed a practice, and we made it through the year and Loredo was nominated 1st Team All-District.
Loredo’s junior year (my second year) was one of the best years in Lubbock High School soccer history; we went 15-8-2, the first time our team had an overall winning record in over two decades. We finished second in our district; Loredo was nominated the Overall District MVP, but lost out on the award by just one vote. Instead, he was voted District Defensive MVP and I was voted Coach of the Year — again we walked through it all together. Everything went well, and our bond continued to grow.
I always have considered Loredo my own, just like all my other athletes, but I focused more on my “high-risk athletes” than I did on my relationship with Loredo.
After a successful season, I had the opportunity to go to my alma mater to be a coach, and I had asked for a few days to make a decision. The day I was planning to decide, I stopped by the field house and walked into the weight room and Loredo was there working out. As soon as I saw him, I knew I couldn’t leave; we had been through too much for me to leave Loredo his senior year, and so I declined the job and stayed. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal, just a simple decision.
Leading into this year, Loredo was expected to be one of our very best wide receivers and we were expecting big things from him in soccer as well. We went to Dumas to play, and Loredo was blocking on the outside, got rolled up from behind, and I knew when he didn’t get up it was bad. He tore his ACL and meniscus and ended up missing the rest of the season.
When it happened, I spent halftime with Loredo crying on my shoulder, because he thought he was letting the team down. That’s the type of kid he is, focused on the team, not his injury. I told him we are going to get through this, like everything else we’ve been through, and “when you get back, you will get to play soccer and you can still do great things there.”
Loredo looked forward to that opportunity, however, this past week we learned that he will not be able to return for soccer. Loredo was crushed and we spent a long time together Thursday after he went to the doctor. We discussed the things he and I had been through together. We discussed his baby, the great year last year, the fact that I considered leaving, and it hit us both at the same time. We both were here for a reason; because God knew we needed each other during this time. It wasn’t coincidence that I was hired when I was to go through things with him, and it wasn’t coincidence that I stayed when I did. We needed each other during those three years without realizing it; the timing wasn’t coincidence.
Why is this important?
I write all of that to say this: too many times as coaches we focus exclusively on certain kids — the kids who have no parents or their parents are locked-up. We focus on the kids who don’t know where they are staying tonight or where their next meal is coming from (if they get one). We spend so much time focusing on those kids that, without realizing it, we overlook some of our low-risk athletes who need us most.
I spent the last three years focused on several high-risk kids, who I felt needed me more than all the rest. It wasn’t until Loredo and I talked recently that I realized, that this whole time, he needed me most. He comes from a two parent home and he has a support system, but needed more than that, and he looked to me for that.
If you aren’t building relationships with ALL of your players, then you’re not properly building (or rebuilding) a program. It takes everyone, not just some of your kids, trusting you and buying in to what you are doing. Every player is your kid, and you have to treat them ALL as your own. Let nothing get in the way of helping ALL of your players; you never know which ones need you the most.