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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Soccer Coach James Martin’s PVAC Reign Comes To an End

Soccer coach James Martin with the boys varsity soccer team of the 2021 season. Martin has been coaching the team since 2009, and will finally retire this year. (Mila Martin/International Dateline)

After taking a sabbatical then retiring from WIS to travel in France, former economics teacher James Martin returned to his position as head coach of the boys varsity soccer team after a hiatus. 

“When I retired, it got a bit complicated because of some scheduling issues,” Martin said. “In the end it didn’t work out, and I decided not to return [to teach]. However, I hate to leave abruptly, and I wanted to keep ties with WIS so I asked to coach one more season.”  

However, Martin’s plans were interrupted by the pandemic, which caused the 2020-2021 season to be cancelled. Nonetheless, Martin intended to keep his promise of coaching, and with the arrival of new Athletic Director Floreal Pedrazo, Martin was a prime candidate for the position.

“Not one of the soccer coaches, nor the athletic director has been through a season of soccer before,” Martin said. “There’s just so many weird little things to know about scheduling. I was the only person who had done it for a long time.”

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Throughout Martin’s time coaching at WIS, the boys varsity soccer team has turned into a serial winner of the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference (PVAC) league and tournament. But, it hasn’t always been this way. 

Martin originally started coaching in 2009 with no experience in tactics and training. “I should not have been coaching soccer,” he said. “There’s no way.”

Miraculously, the team managed to win their first season undefeated with both PVAC banners. However, Martin attributes that win more to luck. “[Winning that season] was the worst thing that could happen to me,” Martin said. “The first game of the [next season] we lost 7-0 to Sandy Spring.”

This losing streak continued, and throughout the season, WIS was in the middle of the PVAC table, a long cry from the champions they were the previous season. 

“I tried this, and I tried that, but I just wasn’t good enough of a coach to figure out [what went wrong],” Martin said. “I had not spent enough time [on tactics] in my first season because I got lucky. The worst thing that can happen to coaches is when they have a lucky season.”

His complacency in his first season made him realize that he had to work harder tactically and gain a better understanding of soccer to become a better coach. Since then, Martin has led WIS to a state title in 2016 and several PVAC titles.

His return to WIS was a shock to some players. “I was surprised,” senior and boys varsity Co-Captain Matteo Caloia said. “It showed great dedication for him to come back whilst not teaching.”

With Martin’s return, comes his specific playing style. “His playing style is very focused on team play rather than individual runs,” senior and Co-Captain Jonathan Baunsgaard said. “He’s looking at how we can work together to move the ball up the field effectively without having to dribble past three or four players.”

Thus far, WIS has maintained a record of nine wins, one loss, and one draw, and played against competitive teams outside of the PVAC such as Maret School and Sidwell Friends School.

However, with the D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA) boys soccer championship tournament fast approaching, there are still some concerns about facing bigger teams such as Gonzaga, which currently remains WIS’s only loss this season. “We were dominating right at the beginning of the game,” Martin said. “However, our [lack of] fitness and athleticism started to embarrass us.”

Baunsgaard agrees with this assessment. “There’s always a bit of fitness missing in our practices, especially in the preseason,” Baunsgaard said.

Despite this, Baunsgaard is still confident in the team. “I have high hopes that we can actually do quite well in states,” Baunsgaard said. 

The WIS soccer team has proven to be a force to be reckoned with and are currently ranked fourth in all of DC, according to the DCSAA. With a talented and strong squad, this season also remains Martin’s last chance at winning a second state title, as he will not be returning next year. 

“I’m finally retiring just when I’m getting decent at coaching,” he joked.

By Philip He

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