Feature Story

December 14, 2023 | By Cole Hatcher

'Sustained Success'

Ohio Wesleyan Men's Soccer Head Coach Jay Martin Shares Lessons in New Book

Jay Martin

Jay Martin's first book is appropriately titled "Lessons from the Best Coach." Martin is head coach of the Ohio Wesleyan University men's soccer team and the sport's winningest coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history, all divisions.

So what does Martin consider the key takeaway from his publication? "This is not a soccer coaching book," he says matter-of-factly. "This is a book for anyone who manages people in an organization looking to be successful.

"Although I think that culture is an overused word and that people don't understand what culture means, I know that all great organizations understand culture is the driving force for sustained success," said Martin, Ph.D., also an Ohio Wesleyan professor of Health and Human Kinetics.

"The culture at OWU soccer is all about empowering the players and establishing a relationship with the players," he explained. "We want to create an emotional bond between the players, the University, and the soccer team," he said. "Focus on culture and success will follow!"

On Constant Learning

For all of the wisdom gained during his 46 years with the Battling Bishops – and his 750+ career wins, Martin still recalls an important lesson that was especially difficult for him to learn.

"The toughest lesson for me was understanding that I don't know everything," he said. "In fact, I know very little, and I must continue to learn to reach my goals.

"My first year, I inherited a good team," he said in explanation. "We had two 'special' players: Don Minkler and Bill Kohlasch. I knew everything so I decided to play Don and Bill in the midfield together. In those days most teams played with two or three midfielders. I thought that these two guys were so good no one could stop us. We were 0-3-3 after six games!

"Then, I remembered a lesson that a veteran soccer coach in Munich, Germany, had shared with me about putting a team together," Martin continued. "He said, 'If you are lucky enough to have two personality players' – and we were – 'do not let them play together. They will negate and take away from each other.' So, I put Bill at sweeper and Don in the midfield with two other players. We won the rest of our games until the conference final.

"I knew then that I knew nothing. I had a lot of work to do!"

On Connecting (and Reconnecting) with Readers

One of the joys of publishing his first book, Martin said, is hearing from readers – including former Bishops.

"I am a little surprised about the feedback I have received," he said. "Many former players – some of whom I have not talked to in a long time have read the book and commented on how much fun it was to revisit 'old times.' Or how they still use the lessons they learned from their time at Roy Rike (OWU's soccer field). …

"I think the biggest response has come from soccer coaches around the country," Martin said. "That's a good thing because that is the population I initially wanted to reach."

On Becoming an Author

"For many years people have asked, 'Why haven't you written a book?' I always thought why me? I am not Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) from Duke. But after the 2011 National Championship, I finally relented.

In April of 2012, I started to get thoughts and notes together and make plans for the book. My effort was sporadic at best. Finally, two years ago, I decided to get it done. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I started to write a page a day. Sometimes a few more.

"I revised and added and changed things, but stuck to my one-page-at-a-time plan. I thought I would just tell readers what we do with OWU soccer. We have been successful for a long time.

I wanted it to be short. ... I wanted to eliminate the 'academic speak' that coaches may not understand. And, I wanted it to be conversational. I wanted it to be like they were talking to me. Once I figured these things out it was easy. Not really! … It is surprising how many people have asked for me to autograph the book."

Read an excerpt from Martin's book, "Lessons from the Best Coach: Develop a Winning Team Culture that Lasts," in the fall 2023 edition of the OWU Magazine. Learn more about Martin's tenure as head coach and the OWU men's soccer team on the Battling Bishops website.