Meet Mexican women's WP coach Gabriel Martinez
If ever there was a man of passion and commitment, it has to be Mexican women’s coach Gabriel Martinez. The fervour with which he coached his team at the Universiade in Shenzhen, China in August had to be seen, to be believed. His jumping up and down on the pool deck was his way of saying: “Go get ‘em, girls.”
Gabriel has been the head women's coach at Commerce Aquatics since 1997. At Commerce he has 10 & under, 12 & under, 14 & under, 16 & under, 18 & under and 20 & under teams. At the recent United States Championships his 12 & under team finished third, the 14s finished first, the 16s third, and the 18s finished 11th. Most of his 20 & under girls are on the Mexican team.
Gabriel answered the following questions from FINA:
What training sessions do you have with what teams?
Monday: 8-11am, Mexican team; 11am-1:30pm, Fullerton College. Tuesday: 7-8:30am, Fullerton College; 8-11am, Mexico; 11am-1:30pm, Fullerton College; 2:30-8pm, Commerce Aquatics. Wednesday: Same as Monday. Thursday: Same as Tuesday. Friday: Same as Monday and Wednesday, but the Mexican team will have games on this day.
What ignites the passion in Gabriel Martinez?
Every year we compete in our national championships and we would enter the same age groups, and every year we would finish sixth or better at every age group. Some of the standout players I have worked with include Brenda Villa, Patty Cardenas, Jessica Lopez, Priscilla Orozco, Mary Ann Campos. I have worked with some very successful athletes, but what I am most proud of is in the last 10 years I have had a 100% attendance to a college or university and the girls have graduated on time.
What I like best is when my girls play hard. I do feel that the team can feed off the coach. I try to give them the energy that I would like in the water, and to believe in themselves. My teams are either smaller than or do not have the opportunities that other players may have.
What percentage of Mexican Americans are in your programme?
I would say that 98% of the members at Commerce are Mexican Americans.
What have Mexican-Americans got to give the game of water polo?
What I think the Mexican-American athletes have to give to water polo is a lot of passion, pride, hard word, allowing the smaller athlete the opportunity to compete against the bigger once. More than anything else, smart water polo with a lot of movement.
You have just coached the Mexican women to the Universiade in China. What successes did you have there?
Mexico has competed in many tournaments before I got there and could not medal or compete against some of the better teams. I think that in China we were about to compete against the better teams and in some cases win those games. I believe that we were the only team to be beating them at the end of the first quarter and within two goals at halftime.
How did the women compete one-on-one with other international players?
Before I started coaching with Mexico, I asked one of the girls how many games they played in a year. She told me: "We would play better five to seven games in the year." Then I asked her how many of those games were close. She said: "None, we would win our games by more then 10 goals." So I have tried to get them more games as well as more competitive games. They have a lot of talent. They just do not get enough games.
How can the Commerce experience be translated to Mexico itself?
I could be wrong, but I am going to try to coach the same system in Mexico as I do at Commerce. I have the same kind of athletes playing against the same kind of athletes. I think that something new cannot hurt.
What are your immediate plans for Mexico women internationally?
Our short-term plans are to compete in the Pan American Games and to do well. I would like to take some trips outside the country, but we are trying to fundraise.
What are your long-term plans?
I do not know what my long-term plans are. I have been coaching at Commerce for about 16 years, coaching at Fullerton College for four years. I would like to get a fulltime job at Fullerton and continue to coach the Mexican team, but much of that is out of my control.
What are your general thoughts on the current rules?
I think that staying 25 metres with a 30-second shot clock helps. I think that they have toward movement, which we do a lot of, and award creativity. More than anything else water polo should try to become a black and white sport like every other sport. Call what you see, a foul is a foul. Most referees will be influenced by a team’s history or by the size of the team.
Will we see that passionate Gabriel foot-stomping on the sideline for many years to come?
I love to coach water polo. I would love to coach in the international level.