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Success continues to follow UNK offensive coordinator/quarterback coach
Jason Arens
Antelope Staff

As the sun beats down on Ron and Carol Cope Stadium during afternoon football practice, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Coach Russ Martin discusses the game plan for the upcoming week with his quarterbacks.  His players listen up because they know coach Martin isn’t blowing smoke; he has been around the block.  Not only does Martin have an impressive array of coaching experience, but he has also witnessed sports from a different perspective through officiating for roughly 15 years—a weapon in his repertoire that has proved useful to his coaching success through the years.  So how did Martin become the successful coach that he is today?

Coach Russ Martin is in his eighth year with UNK and is on his second stint with the squad.  He was in Kearney early in his career for two years, starting back in 1987, due in part to his affiliation with current head coach Darrell Morris.  Since then he has coached for Kansas Weslyan, Bethany College, Black Hills State (where he was head coach), Southeast Missouri State (a Division I school) and back to  UNK, where he is currently in his sixth straight year.  Being a native of Scottsbluff, Martin enjoys being close to his and his wife’s families.

Martin wasn’t completely caught up in coaching, so he took time to become a sports officiator. While Coach Martin’s refereeing experience is primarily elsewhere from football (basketball, baseball, fast-pitch softball), he still gets the sense of what an official has to deal with during the course of a game.  After all, referees in all sports deal with an abundance of the same issues. So just how beneficial could officiating experience be to a coach’s success?

When asked if previous officiating experience affected the way he interacted with officials during a game, Martin said, “Yes, because you know that there is always going to be someone unhappy about a call that is made.  Refs are just trying to manage the game.  As a coach, I try to focus on my job and not get caught up in the refereeing.”  Martin believes coaches shouldn’t let their emotions take over; instead, they should try to just focus on the game plan.  “I feel that I’ve acquired balance, having been a part of both sides.”

Understanding what the officials feel can lead to a better connection on the field.  Coach Martin commented on what different interacting strategies can be used to help put your team in a position for beneficial calls throughout a game. “Just treat the officials fairly. Communication is key. Talk to the refs to see if there are any rules to watch out for and alert your players.  Inform the refs of any tricky formations you will be running so the refs can recognize it instead of penalizing it.”

Obviously, officials are professionals and can’t pick favorites, but it couldn’t hurt your team if you treated them courteously.  “Just let the refs know you care. They appreciate respect,” he added.  
This is all information that Martin has picked up from his officiating days.  When asked if there were any other refereeing experiences that came to mind, he smiled and said, “Well all I can think of off the top of my head are situations that deal with angry parents.”  He went on to say how he remembered watching a coach begin to lose focus as he argued a call on the floor, causing his players to lose focus as well, along with control of the game just because of that one incident.

“It would be beneficial for all coaches to referee some games first so they understand and have a greater appreciation for officials,” Martin said.  He also believes that while most officials are professional during a game, some don’t understand the importance and value that the coaches, players and parents put into the game.

Martin believes that coaches and referees must understand and respect the actions of one another during the course of a game as long as the actions aren’t inappropriate, because in the end, no one individual is higher than the game itself.

There is no question why success on the football field continues to follow Coach Russ Martin.  His experience, techniques, and above all, respect will continue to earn him respect as his coaching career progresses forth.

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