Sept. 4, 2003
Greg Martin’s introduction to soccer was not much different from any other kid. His parents signed him up for a local recreational league and the rest is history.
Over 10 years later, he has made a place for himself in the soccer history books. With the start of the 2003 season, the senior midfielder became the first player to hold the captain position for three seasons in Notre Dame soccer history.
“I always let the players vote for their captain because the captains are the people that are going to lead them,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark says.
“I have never had a sophomore captain before on any of my teams. It was a first for me.”
This is what you get with the Texas native. He is a strong-willed, goal-oriented person. Martin sets out to achieve things, even if he did have a “slow start” in his sport.
“I was slow to start,” Martin said.
“My folks were pretty concerned about me playing sports and being in school at the same time. They said, ‘We’ll give it a year and see how it goes.'”
It is hard to believe that Martin is still involved with the sport that caught his eye so long ago. The impressive part of it is that Martin played soccer on numerous levels. He started at the recreational level and then moved on to the club level. Martin enjoyed a successful stint playing for his high school team in Plano, Texas, as well.
In addition to his high school team, Martin made the United States Under-17 National Team which is comprised of the most promising soccer players in country under the age of 17. Martin’s fellow teammates included the likes of DeMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Landon Donovan, all of whom are current Major League Soccer [MLS] and World Cup standouts.
“I have been very fortunate because of all the teams I have been involved with,” Martin says.
“The U-17 team had a lot of stars on it. To see those guys go and do great things is the fulfillment of what we hoped for. To be honest, I hope to be able to say the same things about the guys I am playing with right now in a couple years.”
Martin was a three-year member of the Under-17 team. He spent an extended period of time training at the Bradenton Academy in Florida which is now part of the International Management Group (IMG) Academies. The IMG Academies are a set of schools that specialize in athletic training while still maintaining a student’s studies. The Under-17 team spent numerous hours on the training fields while still balancing a class load.
“We trained anywhere from six to eight hours a day and it was pretty strenuous,” Martin says.
“For the most part, we were traveling, mostly to Europe. When we were abroad, we were just playing games and training once, maybe twice, a day.”
The team spent from 8 a.m. until 12 noon studying. Then from about 1 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m., the team trained. Training took place on and off the soccer fields. They spent time in the pool as well as in the gym. On average, training usually lasted between six and eight hours a day.
The team maintained a rigorous schedule but it all paid off when the team made quite a run in the Youth World Championships. The team ended up losing in the semifinals of the championships in New Zealand in November of 1999.
“I feel like I got a good glimpse of the world and the way it works, from the age of 15,” Martin says about his national team experience.
“I was fortunate enough to see much of the world by traveling with soccer. Also I feel like I got a bit of a business sense at the ages of 15, 16 and 17 by playing in the national teams program. Even though it was soccer and we were just kids, it is still a business at that level. I learned some good lessons at that time, be it some hard ones.”
Martin spent his junior year of high school training in Florida. While it did teach him a lot about the ways of the world, it made searching for a college difficult.
“I looked at a couple schools,” Martin recalls.
“At this time, I was traveling pretty extensively so it was difficult to go on official visits.”
He did manage to make some trips to Clemson and South Carolina with the Under-17 team.
“On my own, I took off to Duke, SMU and some others,” Martin says.
“I took a look at Brown and a short little look at Harvard. When Notre Dame came, I couldn’t pass it up.”
Martin made academics a large part of his decision on where to pursue his college career. All of the schools that he visited weighed heavily on academics. Yet Notre Dame stood out for not only the academics but the tradition and community as well.
“I took into consideration the level of education I would get and that is second to none here,” Martin says.
“The soccer community here was up and coming. I wanted to come here and help build something.”
Martin feels strongly that you are a representation of the people who surround you which is why he selected a school like Notre Dame.
“I got to know some of the people that were involved with the program, and I just knew it was a different class of people around Notre Dame,” Martin says.
“You don’t find that in too many place in the country. To me, I really wanted to be involved with good people because you really are the company you keep.”
Martin signed on and became part of the class of 2004, along with five others. They played their freshman year under coach Chris Apple who served as the interim coach after the sudden death of Mike Berticelli in January of 2000.
“When my class came here it was under Coach Berticelli and Coach Apple. We all knew each other for the most part coming in and we were all excited,” Martin says.
“We knew it could be a great school. We were probably over ambitious to think that just the six of us could change the program.”
Times sure have changed since Martin enrolled at Notre Dame. The Irish hired the highly-touted Clark in January of 2001 and according to Martin, it could not have been planned any better.
“With some great luck, in came Coach Clark,” Martin says.
“We have been under the ‘Boss” (the team’s nickname for Clark) tutelage for almost three years. I don’t think it could have worked out better and it could not have been planned any better. Notre Dame is becoming a great soccer school and that is what the six of us came here to do.”
Aside from Martin, there are five others out of senior class that initially came in together. Filippo Chillemi, Justin Detter, Devon Prescod, Kevin Richards, Chad Riley and Martin all had the same goal to take Notre Dame to national prominence. He feels this year could be the culmination of this group’s goal.
As for being named captain, Martin remains humble.
“I am just grateful for the opportunity,” Martin says.
“I am serving my third year as captain and I served the previous two years with some great captains. Under the tutelage of the Boss and assistant coaches Brian Wiese and Mike Avery, I have been able to pick up a lot of things in terms of leadership and organization. Hopefully, this will pay off over the next four or five months.”
In four or five months, the story will all play out for Martin and the Irish. Clark feels that a team can not succeed without good leadership.
“I look for a lot of leadership from the captains,” Clark says.
“Captains are very important because if you don’t have good leadership on a team, it will struggle. I am hoping that this year we will have strong leadership. Greg Martin is a three-time captain so that speaks volumes about him. He really likes being a leader, being in charge and being the boss.”
Martin will be joined in the leadership role by four assistant captains as Detter, Prescod, Richards and Riley will assist with the leadership on the field.
“What is interesting about this year, is that we tried to have a vote to have just two captains in addition to Greg,” Clark says.
“We wanted to have a total of three this year, like we did last year. The vote just wouldn’t split. We were just dead level.”
One thing is certain, with one captain that has three years of leadership experience under his belt, as well as four other assistant captains, the Irish will have a strong showing on the field. Martin likes to clarify that while there are captains and coaches, there really is only one boss, and that is Clark.
“To just call him coach is really not enough because there a lot of coaches out there, but there really is just one Boss,” Martin says.
Every year the soccer team has one main goal, to a win a national championship. This year is seems very realistic as the Irish return nine starters and will solidify their line-up with a tremendous supporting cast, including one of the most highly-touted freshman classes in the country.
A shot at national title would be the icing on the cake for Martin and the Irish. The senior midfielder wants nothing more than to add a national title to his lengthy soccer resume.
Not too bad for a kid that initially signed on to play soccer for just one year.