Richard Martin had the Columbus High School boys soccer program on the verge of making the Class 5A playoffs this season.
In his three seasons as coach, the Falcons improved from three, to nine to 11 victories.
Now someone else will have to take the team to the next level.
Martin recently announced he was stepping down as boys soccer coach at Columbus High to spend more time with his family.
“I have been coaching for the past nine years and I decided that with a young family that they”re only going to be young once,” Martin said. “I felt this was a good time to step down to focus on my family.”
Martin has three girls ages 6, 3, and 8 months. He said he plans to coach his girls in the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority rec leagues when they are old enough to play.
Martin believes it is the right time to do that in part because the Columbus High program has made significant strides in the past three seasons. He said the team played only 10 matches the year before he arrived at the school from Clinton, a program with a strong soccer tradition.
Martin said the support of the booster club and the parents have helped make Columbus High soccer more competitive. He hopes those elements remain constant and that the city”s youth soccer league will continue to develop to provide a talented feeder system to the high school.
“The key to competing with Starkville and Tupelo in this district is to make sure the focus is on the youth and the young kids,” Martin said. “We have to keep them interested after they have been through U-12 and U-13 because a lot of times we lose them to baseball, basketball, or football, and they don”t realize they can play both.
“Columbus is heading in the right direction. I see the school more involved and doing that what it can to help the program.
Martin said he will remain as a freshman biology at Columbus High. He said his decision wasn”t any easier to make considering the program has improved.
“We definitely were a lot more competitive this year than the past couple of years combined,” Martin said. “I would like to think I had a large part to play in that. I know the program is in a lot better shape then when I got there.”
He also appreciates the support of the school”s administration, which he said believes he is a quality teacher and that he wants to remain in the district.
Columbus High Athletic Director Paul Henry said Martin worked hard to get more student-athletes at Columbus High and more parents involved in the program.
“I think coach Martin came in and helped establish the soccer program at Columbus,” Henry said. “Columbus never was known for boys and girls soccer, and the first year he came in he was coaching boys and girls. He really got into the school and promoted it.”
Henry said soccer is one sport that the Mississippi High School Activities Association allows schools to hire parent professionals as coaches. He said there lack of qualified teachers who are capable of coaching sports like soccer and volleyball, and that Columbus High might go the route of hiring a parent professional.
Henry said the school is in the process of hiring a new coach and that it should be completed in a few weeks.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.