Martinez ready to take on new challenge

Don’t expect Fort Sumner’s Mario Martinez to do a coaching version of Michael Jordan and make a comeback any time soon.

The longtime the Foxes football and boys track coach recently accepted a position as assistant director of men’s athletics for the New Mexico Activities Association. The NMAA is expected to formally approve the hiring Wednesday.

The 49-year-old Martinez has spent more than 27 years coaching in New Mexico high schools, the last 12 at Fort Sumner where his teams have captured five state championships each in football and track. Since 1995, the Foxes have failed to advance to the state football semifinals only once and have finished lower than second in state track only once.

He’s happy to have a new challenge, though, and doesn’t plan a return to coaching.

“I really think I’m done,” said Martinez, who also taught special education and served as athletic director at Fort Sumner. “I told some people if I ever coach again, I hope it’s my grandson or granddaughter’s Little League team.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate, but there’s a time to step away.”

His stint at Fort Sumner is easily his longest stop. He coached six years at his high school alma mater, Springer, and has also spent time at Moriarty, Tucumcari, Pojoaque and Carlsbad.

“I’m certainly not leaving because of any reason other than I have a real good opportunity (with the NMAA),” Martinez said. “I knew there would come a time when I needed a new challenge.

“Even if I hadn’t gotten the NMAA job, I probably would be looking at doing something else.”

Lecil Richards, Fort Sumner superintendent of schools, said Martinez is leaving some big shoes to fill.

“His organizational skills are impeccable,” Richards said. “Not many people can do what he does. He’s not only a program builder, he’s shown he can maintain a program.”

Richards said possible replacement scenarios will be discussed at the next Fort Sumner school board meeting on June 14.

“We’ve got lots of options,” Richards said. “It just depends on what personnel we have to fill the teaching position. Hopefully, we can find a strong academics-coach combination.”

Although his NMAA duties don’t officially begin until Aug. 1, Martinez and his wife are busy moving to the Albuquerque area and he figures he’ll get a head start on things.

“There’s a lot to do between now and then,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be in (the NMAA offices) a lot in the next couple of months.

“I will pretty much be directly responsible for overseeing all the boys district, regional and state tournaments. I’ll be dealing with eligibility, and the financial end of the NMAA.”
At the same time, he’ll keep an eye on how things go back in Fort Sumner.

“I’ll be watching scores and getting on the Internet, or just picking up the phone and calling someone,” Martinez said. “All in all, I’ll miss Fort Sumner. I’m going to miss the little things as much as anything — the smell on (football) Friday nights, and the laughs we always had in the coaches’ office.

“I just felt like this was a good time to go.”