Although Martin will remain at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa until Feb. 6 and start at Ohatchee on Feb. 10, that hasn’t stopped him from getting things prepared for his new challenge.
“I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a great challenge and I’m looking forward to it,” Martin, 51, said. “If you look at the past, Ohatchee has had some good football teams at the school. They’ve struggled over the last 10 or 11 years for whatever those reasons may be, but, at the same time, I’m looking forward to going in there and resurrecting that program.”
Martin’s challenge at Ohatchee will be different than at his previous two coaching stops.
After coaching for 22 years in Louisiana, including 17 seasons as a head coach, Martin has spent the past six seasons at Alabama schools.
He was an assistant at Spain Park in 2008, head coach at Class 4A Calera for two years, an assistant at Pell City in 2011 and head coach at 6A Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa the last two season. His team’s made the playoffs all four seasons as an Alabama high school head coach.
Calera won 28 games in the three seasons before Martin arrived. Martin maintained that tradition, leading the team in a 14-8 record over the next two years. At Hillcrest, Martin was hired following the 2011 season, during which the Patriots went 12-1. He led Hillcrest to a 12-10 record over the next two seasons.
At Ohatchee, the challenge for Martin is the opposite. Martin will be the program's fourth coach in seven seasons. Ohatchee has failed to win more than three games since posting five victories in 2007. Previous coach Nathan Wehunt was 3-17 in two seasons.
“Everyone is always rooting for the underdog. I enjoy going into the situation where maybe a team hasn’t had a success,” Martin said. “There’s always a variety of reasons why they haven’t had success. It’s exciting coming into a new program, trying to change the mindset of the kids, coaches and community. I’ve just always liked that kind of challenge.
“That’s also what always drives me in the coaching profession. It’s about seeing if you can rally all of those moving parts in the program together, get everyone excited about it and see if you can get it started in a different direction.”
Martin said his plan for turning programs around is based on four cornerstones: character, commitment, courage and being a champion on the field and in the classroom. He said the biggest issue from the start is the program has “had a lot of apathy.”
“You get so used to losing that it almost becomes expected. You’ve got to teach kids how to fight through that adversity. We live in such a Xbox and Playstation society that we want immediate satisfaction and immediate rewards,” Martin said. “When young boys and girls are playing games on these machines, if they’re not successful they can reach over and hit a reset button. They don’t have to deal with failure.
“The thing we try to do in our program is make kids deal with uncomfortable situations and make them come out on the other side. Once they’ve done that, we have a chance to be successful.”
For a coach who has coached at larger schools than Ohatchee, which will be in 3A this fall, Martin said working with a smaller school doesn’t provide any advantages over bigger programs. He said it will take a lot of organization, something he considers a strength, and will more than likely be more difficult than at a bigger school because of depth.
Martin also added that the Ohatchee area is a place he’d like to retire to, saying he loves being around water and in the country. At the same time, he added he’s “not retiring anytime soon.”
“My favorite teams that I’ve coached have been rural, so Ohatchee was the perfect fit. It is fortunate that I could come to a place like Ohatchee and this would be a great place to settle my family in,” Martin said. “I’m not really thinking about retirement, but the thing is this isn’t a stepping stone. If I’m moving from a 6A to a 3A, I’m not looking to move back up. I’m looking at Ohatchee to be a place where I want to be for a long time.
“I don’t want the community to think that if I’m successful, then I’m moving on. I want to develop a program and be here for the long term.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.