DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

AIA nominee: Tennis worked out well for Martin

 When Laurie Martin grew up in southern California, she participated in many activities, including working with horses in some rural areas near the city of Chino.

Tennis, however, was not one of them. Oh, she knew about the sport, but had little or no experience playing until she got older.

She came to Arizona State to study broadcast journalism. Much of her free time was spent learning how to play tennis. She later worked at one tennis facility out of state and then went to the John Gardiner Tennis Ranch in Paradise Valley.

After getting married and having four children, including twins, she developed an interest in possibly becoming a coach.

“I stepped away from it for awhile, then as my kids got a little older, I thought I might get back into it,’’ Martin said. “It has worked out pretty well.’’

In the spring of 2022, she will begin her 17th year as the head coach at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix. Since beginning at XCP in 2006, she has won five state championships, the most recent in 2019, as well as five state runner-up finishes. Her overall record is 258-15.

It is understandable, then, why the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) is nominating Martin for the National Federation of High Schools National Tennis Coach of the Year for the 2020-21 school year.

Tennis coach Laurie Martin (Xavier photo).

Martin has won coaching awards in Arizona and participated in many tennis organizations across the country. She was a pioneer in the area of freshman tennis, with a “no-cut’’ approach that continues at XCP despite her handing that part of the program off to Judith Hernandez, who is in her second season this fall.

Martin has gathered a great deal of background information and will give it to the AIA by the end of this month, and the AIA will forward it on to the NFHS.

“This (nomination) is a pleasant surprise,’’ she said. “You don’t get into this to win awards, certainly not for yourself. You want your players to play well and do well academically.’’

She knows many of her fellow coaches, including those across the country, “and there are a lot of good ones around.’’

Tennis is a fairly simple game, she says.

“I like the pace. Every time it (ball) crosses the net, something interesting is going to happen,’’ she said.

“It’s two people out there battling, four with doubles. You want them to do their best and have success, but in the end, it’s how they turn out as a person that matters.’’

One of Martin’s most challenging times came in a recent season when eight of her 11 varsity players were injured and she had to mix and match the lineup with some of the players with not as much experience as others.

“That can happen any time, so you have to know your players and be able to adjust,’’ she said.

Martin has coached three individual state champions, two individual singles runners-up, three individual doubles champions and four individual doubles runners-up.

She also emphasizes her players’ involvement in the community.

Since 2014, the Xavier tennis program has raised more than $12,000 for the Guerrant Foundation through participation in various tennis events. Funds went toward helping women start small businesses in third-world countries.

There was a two-day clinic for children at Chicanos Por La Causa. And the team collected equipment for the Nogales Border Exchange. And since 2012, Martin has been a member of the Fr. Joseph Patterson Board of Directors. One of the group’s objectives is to award financial scholarships to low-economic students.

1 comment: