Soccer Coach Kick-Starts Two Generations of Players
Jay Martin probably wasn’t thinking about recruiting two decades into the future when he was coaching in the late 1980s and ’90s. But it turns out there are unforeseen benefits to achieving the remarkable longevity that Martin has had as coach of the Ohio Wesleyan men’s soccer team.
Scott Norman ’88, Andy Riggle ’95, and Domenic Romanelli ’88 all played for Martin in their time at OWU; now their sons do. First-year students Nolan Norman ’20, Drew Riggle ’20, and Antonio Romanelli ’20, along with Nolan’s older brother Nick Norman ’17 are on the 2016-17 roster.
Martin, the men’s coach since 1977, speaks highly of his second-generation players. “All of them have a very positive mindset because they come from an athletic family and an athletic background,” Martin says. “It’s a pleasure working with these guys.”
Although their fathers attended Ohio Wesleyan, the current players all say they chose the school on their own, with winning a national championship as their main goal. Their fathers encouraged their sons to make the right decisions for themselves, and tried not to influence their choices.
“I didn’t have to be the one to tell him that it’s a great place. It’s a great tradition; Jay’s a great coach. Antonio found that out himself,” says Domenic Romanelli.
“Success is what you come here for,” Antonio confirms. The team won national championship titles in 1998 and 2011, and Martin is the winningest men’s collegiate soccer coach in all divisions.
According to dads Scott and Andy, the program has remained the same in key ways. One obvious reason for the consistency over the years is Martin. His influence has created a specific culture on the team.
“(Martin) brings the same kind of commitment to wanting to win, excellence, and asking a lot of his players. I think that’s been a mainstay of Ohio Wesleyan soccer,” says Scott Norman.
His younger son agrees. “The program is even better than I expected coming in. It’s tough to really describe what we have here in terms of the pride and tradition of a soccer program,” says Nolan Norman.
Nick Norman, whose team made it to the NCAA Division III semifinals in 2014, also came for the winning tradition. “The goal is to win a national championship. I think that’s why every soccer player joins this program, because they know we can compete for a national championship,” says Nick.
“There’s a lot of tradition here. I think the quality of players is at the same level it was 10, 20 years ago. I think the player that comes here is one that wants to win a national championship and has a sort of unique personality,” says Andy Riggle.
That includes his son, Drew. “It’s not totally what I expected, but (Martin is) a great coach, and I did expect that. It’s very serious and there’s a winning mentality, which I expected,” says Drew. “The culture is great.”
Martin acknowledges the correlation between a father’s experience and the likelihood of his son joining the same program, which has occurred in previous seasons. Martin believes it means the father had a good experience at OWU and playing soccer for him. “I take that as a compliment and look forward to getting more of these guys in the next few years,” Martin says.
Story by Megan Parker ’20