Here’s a nice story by Matt Monghan from the Salem Statesman-Journal:
There was a time when Juan Martinez was all about scoring goals. It was his left foot that gave Woodburn High School its first state soccer championship a year ago.But two major changes have occurred in Martinez’s life sincethen, and as a result the senior has learned that making the assist on the field feels as good as it does off.In the last year, Martinez turned 18 and moved out of the foster care home he grew up in since the age of 7. He also became a father.
Together, these new responsibilities have the Mid-Willamette Conference player of the year thinking more about the people around him, and it’s translated to his performance on the pitch. Martinez, a striker, led Woodburn to its second consecutive Class 5A state championship this season. He scored 23 goals, but more importantly to him and his coach, he assisted on 26 more. For those accomplishments he is the Statesman Journal’s All-Mid-Valley boys soccer player of the year.
“He (Martinez) can be a goal-scoring machine, but he grew up a lot this year,” said Woodburn coach Luis Del Rio. “This year I think he understood better that helping the team actually makes him a better player than being a solo player.” The maturation process began when Martinez was emancipated from the foster care system he grew up in and his surrogate parents moved to Texas. He now lives with brother, CarlosPehr, a former standout for the Bulldogs.
Martinez says his experience with the family that cared for him and Pehr was positive, but it’s also left him with desire to help disadvantaged kids. “As a young kid I was sent into foster care and I just want to help kids to know that they can be successful if they stay focused and work hard,” Martinez said.
In a soccer-mad community like Woodburn, Martinez is a well-known local figure, but he didn’tstart playing the game until the age of 12, preferring basketball. Once he started taking soccer seriously however, he flourished. “Juan is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Del Rio said. “He is an all-around complete package player; a natural player.”
But that natural ability often resulted in Martinez forgetting about his teammates while attempting to dribble his way through all 10 defenders on the field.
Sure, he scored a lot of goals, but Del Rio says it came at the expense of making his teammates better.
“This year, everything that happened with him, it made him open his eyes and notice what life is really about,” says Del Rio. “He understands that he’s not alone; that other people are around him and depend on him.”
Martinez has participated in highly selective soccer academies for both the Portland Timbers and the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. He currently plays for Gresham youth club EastSide United. Moving forward after high school, Martinez said he’s interested in playing collegiately in Oregon (he’s received interest from OSU, Willamette, George Fox and Warner Pacific) with an eye on eventually attempting a pro career.
But he also realizes that now his most important team is the one he leads as a father, and boyfriend to his son’s mother. “It’s not easy not living with your real parents,” Martinez says. “Becoming a parent of my own, I want to give my child a better life than I had.”
Copyright Statesman Journal 2011