Martin Maybin – Playing Division 2 College Soccer

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Martin Maybin is a senior and captain at Regis University, where he has played for four years. He was awarded the RMAC Preseason Player of the Year, Daktronics Second Team, and NSCAA Third Team All-America honors in 2013. He ranked second in the RMAC with 17 goals scored and 2.39 points per match in that season and led the conference with nine assists and tied a single season school record with 43 points. Martin was also named First Team All-RMAC and to the RMAC All-Tournament Team.

Martin grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, playing for Larne Colts and the academy program of Glentoran – a semi-professional club playing in the NIFL Premiership.

Do you remember at what age soccer/football became serious for you? What was the trigger?

I was around 7 years old when soccer became serious for me. I was always super competitive so I needed something to channel that in to and soccer was the first sport that I participated in and it continued from there. We didn’t have high school teams in the same way that they do here in the US so I played for my club team and developed through there.

When did you focus on playing as a forward? Which type of forward role do you most enjoy?

I always had an eye for goal and was one of the quicker kids so it seemed like the position best suited me. I was pretty clinical from a young age and played forward as long as I can remember, but there have been several occasions where I have been dropped back into the midfield. Not so much at college level but when I was younger I played midfield for a couple of years. In college if there are ten minutes left in the game and we’re leading by a goal I might be dropped into holding midfield but forward has always been the one that has suited me most. I think focusing on the one position allowed me to learn a lot more. Whenever you get changed about and have to play multiple positions you’re not always sure what your role is for the team. Playing forward I have always known what is expected of me.

What was your club experience at Larne Colts like? How often did you train and play games?

This is where it gets a lot different from the US. We would train Tuesday and Thursday for maybe 90 minutes then play a game on Saturday. That was the routine I have always been useful, and then coming here we train six days, you’re up early and it can be hard to get used to. It can be tough mentally doing that – especially when you have to balance the academic side too. We’re young and our bodies can handle it, but the performance level isn’t the same with only a day’s rest between games. Back home they expected you to play at 100% all of the time but you can’t do that here with three games every week. I liked that but it is also good here because you are constantly around the ball. In Ireland we played all year and it was spread out, so you would do pre-season in July and the season would end in May. Here we play 18 games in the space of 3.5 months. Also our cup competition was spread through the year at Larne Colts, whereas here it is all at the end of the league season.

How did you go from high school in Northern Ireland to college in the USA? Did you have options to go to college over there?

It kind of came out of nowhere. I was applying to colleges back home and had no intentions of coming over to the US. I had applied to schools in Northern Ireland and some in England and Scotland too, just because I didn’t really want to stay at home. One of my high school teachers knew Coach McCall [at Regis University]and they got in contact. His brother came to one of my games and must have liked me because he got in touch after that, but it was really last minute and unexpected but it was a good decision on my part. Coach sold it very well when I spoke to him and that definitely helped make up my mind.

Did you get any university support from your club or high school?

I spoke to my club team Glentoran about getting the chance to come here as I was close to getting offered a contract with them. They were very encouraging of me to come here: a player who used to play for them had done the same thing and they told me he said it was the best experience he had ever had.

Regis is a private university and undergraduate tuition/board can cost more than $40,000 per year. How much support do you get from scholarships and financial aid?

They cover all of it, pretty much. I pay my own insurance and housing but other than that they pay for it. At the start I paid more because Coach was taking a pretty big gamble on me, having only heard how I played from his brother. After two years when I settled in and started playing well he upped my scholarship and supported me more financially. There is some academic scholarship in there too from the SAT results but it is mostly athletic for me. Originally I was a marketing major but with the extra year I have decided to double major so added finance in there as well.

Did you go to any camps that helped with college recruiting?

No but I think they are starting to take place now though. When I was there we would have little summer camps but nothing like what they have here. I always work the camps here at Regis and the resources they provide for the kids are amazing – I kind of wish we had had that when I was growing up.

What was the beginning of college soccer like? How friendly and organized were they?

It was a big culture shock all around for me because of it being the first time I had left home, but I actually settled in with them pretty quickly. Some of the boys picked me up from the airport so I was in with the team straight away and settled in much quicker than I had imagined. My first year I red shirted because I had issues with the Clearinghouse so that was quite a struggle coming from a good season at Glentoran to not being able to play here. I kept working hard and tried to stay positive and adapted to it all. My first year playing I struggled with injuries but once I got used to the regime of training every day and games coming flying at you my body got used to it. I had been training like crazy at home because I was worried about the altitude and didn’t know what to expect.  Once you got used to it, it was fine though. The team has a great chemistry so that helped too. If we are all getting along you can see it on the pitch.

How much of your college experience is taken up with soccer? Do you feel like you miss anything?

You could say that, but it’s what we signed up for: we don’t get much time to hang out with friends. We train early in the morning, have classes through the day then after that you’re doing your homework and then it’s bedtime. Not being able to drink alcohol after living in Northern Ireland made a big difference, but our drinking policy is to have a dry season anyway. Playing at this level you just can’t do it to your body anyway with three games each week.

How did it affect your academic performance? Did you have enough time and support?

We get great support from the school. On our team being a student comes first ahead of being an athlete, so if you don’t take care of you school work it will affect us on the pitch. If people aren’t performing in the classroom then Coach doesn’t play them, which I think is a good thing that he does. If we need tutors we have them available to us and they are very clear about that process. Once you get into the routine I find I can take care of all of the work, but we train all year round so there really is no off and on season to affect the workload.

How much travel do you have to do for games? How do you get to them and where do you stay?

We take a bus and stay in hotels. We get great busses and hotels and good food on the trips. I actually look forward to them. A lot of people don’t like the long bus journeys but I think they are great and we get a lot of support on them too. The coach has DVD players and screens throughout so it is pretty comfortable. If you get the win the trip back is much more enjoyable too.

What does a regular week look like for you in terms of training and games?

Mondays are our designated day off. The rest of the week we start at 7am. It has been pushed back recently because of the darkness, but me and the other captains get the players to meet twenty minutes before the start to get a good warmup in. The coach then designates a time and that is when the training session gets going. He tries to have us schedule our classes for right after training since we are up for the day and focused at that point. After classes I am usually done at 1:30pm so I will take care of homework and try to get ahead because at weekends with the games I might not have time to do it. Friday and Sunday we have games, and sometimes Wednesday-Friday-Sunday.

Does your head coach do much of the day to day training? How much contact do you have with him?

When I was first there he was very hands on. He had his own goals because he was coming in to a new program and the recruits weren’t really from him. Over time the team has become his, with two new coaches (assistant and graduate assistant) who are more hands on than he is now, just because he has a lot of trust in them and in us. If we are having a bad session though he has no problem stepping in and getting in to us a little bit. I think the arrangement is good for all of us. Some of the boys are less timid when he is not running it – people feel more pressure when he is there because of the authority he has, which isn’t always a bad thing as we’ll train a lot harder. We have a goalie coach who comes out a few times each week too, which is good for them so that they are not only having to train with the rest of the squad.

How healthy are you in terms of eating, drinking and sleeping? How does that compare to the rest of the team?

At the start of the year we get a package which tells us what we should and shouldn’t be eating in terms of carbs and proteins and so on, but the only time they take care of our food is on away trips. They make it clear that we have to be eating and drinking right when we are on our own the rest of the time, but at this stage you have to be mature enough to control that yourself. I think we are all at about the same level though and do quite well. Before Regis I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but with the schedule here I learned pretty fast how important it was. You can’t afford not to be eating right at this level.

Are your friends mostly from the team or from other parts of the university?

I have a pretty good balance between both. One of my friends when I first came over had played at West Brom [Premiership team in England] and he told me how he just had friends on the team so when they were done with training he would go back to the digs [student housing]and everyone else would be going back to their families, so he made it clear that I should get friends off the team, which is what I have done. We’re around the team enough so it is good balance to have friends away from it too. I often tell new international kids coming in that they should look to balance their friends away from the team too.

Looking back at the whole experience, are you glad you went through it? Would you do it again?

Yes, it was the best decision I have made and I would do it again. Of course it has had its ups and downs but the ups definitely outweigh the downs. If I was doing it again and America my first priority I don’t know if I would have applied different schools but Regis has definitely been a good experience. My visa expires in August but after that I get what’s called the OPT year, which is pretty much like a working visa. After that I’m really not sure how it works but long term America is where I want to be. Back home nothing is really changing, so I can always go back to visit, but if I can stay in Colorado I think that would be most beneficial for me, but I’m not against going somewhere else. I would like to go and see the world a little bit too.

Do you plan to continue with soccer in any way when you graduate? Where do you hope to live?

I definitely want to keep playing. That’s one of the ways I think I could stay in America and maybe get citizenship one day. I’m not ready to stop playing yet. I would aim for the top first and look at the MLS combines, so that is the first target. Any level below that though I would look at too. The new team in Colorado Springs [The Switchbacks] would be a great stepping stone: the head coach there [Steve Trittschuh] here and he was a great coach. So there are several options out there. Beyond playing I didn’t think I was made for coaching, but if playing didn’t work out I would still want to be involved, so maybe it’s something I could adapt to. I have a lot to learn that way but I have some great resources and contacts here who are all very knowledgeable and have their own methods.

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