As the sun begins to set at Pierce College’s John Shepard Stadium a whistle blows and the powerful sound of a pointy cleat kicking brown leather sends dozens of players to various destinations. Within seconds, they rush the field and the sound of colliding plastic shoulder pads and helmets, the grunting and heaving of players showing aggression create a football battlefield – a battlefield where only the toughest survive.
The goal is to win. Not just on the field-but within themselves. The one to lead them has to have certain characteristics. He has to be a motivator using his words and actions as weapons to instill fear into others. Determined to develop their internal and external structures to help them achieve success. He is not just their coach but their leader.
Efrain Martinez, the head coach for the Pierce College football team, can often be found at the stadium during practice on the sideline blowing a whistle or on the field enhancing the skills of his players. Although there are a couple of other coaches dedicated to the coordination of the team, there is no way you can miss him.
Standing 5-feet, 6-inches, noticeably built, tan skin and a trait that distinguish him from the rest: his smile. Before stepping foot on campus his day begins at 5 a.m.
Martinez a 34-year-old native of El Salvador is responsible to get his two boys ready for school while his wife goes to the gym. The day is also beginning for students at El Camino Real High school where he teaches mathematics.
His subjects include geometry and advanced applied math. The advanced applied math class is design to give students who are having difficulty with math a second chance. The purpose of his class is to give them the opportunity and motivation to move on to a junior college.
The bell rings and instead of beginning a lecture or taking notes he begins to put students in groups of five. From each group he ties the hands of two students, making it hard for them to untie themselves. The group is responsible for helping the two students get free. “Seems impossible doesn’t it?” said Martinez. “But, that’s how many things seem.”
Students were having a difficult time and some grew impatient. “Try something different, if it doesn’t work one way try another,” Martinez said.
Shaerna Jefferson,16, felt frustrated when trying to de-tangle one of her classmates. “The simplest things can be so hard,” she said. “Yet the hardest things can be the most simplest.” Jefferson moved to West Hills after her hometown Houston was struck by Hurricane Ike. Although she left everything behind she has been able to adjust to her new home and stay on track.
Coming to second period is more than just sketching graphs, memorizing formulas or inputting numbers to equations. “He is your own personal tutor, relating math to real life,” she said. For example, when the word circumference appears she imagines herself running in circles. “I have so much fun in this class, he makes it so much easier,” Jefferson adds.
Second period ends, three more periods to go. His next stop: Pierce College. Today players are seen perfecting their plays and their drills. The sweat running down their faces is due to hours of continuous work, their faces reflect dedication and responsibility. It’s that same dedication and responsibility their coach instills in them.
The majority of these players thirst for opportunities and change rather then the cold water they drink on their break. In the past, players were in charge. Coach Martinez changed all of that. Using football as his motivating tool to get his message across.
Defensive Tackle Alex Martinez,19, has been playing for the football team since the beginning of the season. He has been building a friendship with his coach over the years. Their friendship began when he was an El Camino Real High student. During his junior year he recalls going through a difficult time.
“He gives me advice, that was a big thing that drew me to where he’s at,” Alex Martinez said. Entering the football team is like entering a factory of players with the purpose to “transform them into better people, better human beings and without a doubt better players,” said Efrain Martinez
Currently Alex Martinez is dedicated to achieving in school and determined to strive as a player. Alex Martinez knows that Efrain Martinez football program is going to get him to a four year college and playing for Division I something he dreams of doing. “I feel more responsibility,” he said.
In addition, to being a motivator for his math students to reach higher education Martinez tries to bring the same inspiration to the young men he coaches.
When his former players visit him, Martinez hopes they come back not just to offer gratuity, but to continue the life lessons he has taught them. He wants his players to take what they learn and pass it on.
“Everybody needs a role model,” he said. His role models were his parents who worked hard but never forgot to dedicate time to him and his siblings.
As he sits amidst the dusty benches of the stadium, his green eyes peering over the field where his players practice with pride and enjoyment, he sighs with a smile and says “that’s a reminder of the hard work you put in. To get there you have to work hard for it.”