A bright future ahead

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω 

It’s a little early to call her a phenom, but Kelsey Martin is certainly turning heads. The  shocking part? She’s only 17.

Martin is a rookie on the WolfPack women’s soccer team. She’s in her first year of post-secondary — studying science — and hopes to become a vet one day. Her love of animals is obvious when she talks about her dog Kiko, whom she tries to spend as much of her limited free time with as possible. Outside of school and soccer, she describes herself as a normal city girl who loves spending time with her family and keeping in touch with friends.

But above all else, she is a soccer player.

Martin was named the PACWEST Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 13 and at the age of 17 she is one of the youngest athletes to have ever received the honour. But it’s not just the PACWEST brass who have taken notice of her outstanding play this month. Martin was recently named the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association female Athlete of the Week. She is the first female TRU athlete to receive the award in more than three years.

“I was thrilled, I thought she thoroughly deserved it,” said head coach Tom McManus. “She had played so hard, scored a couple of great goals off the corner kicks. But even in the first game [of the year] I think I only played her a half, but she played so strong. I was pulling everyone off to give the other players playing time anyway and not one complaint out of her. She just came off, understood. Boom, she’s into it. She’s a good team player.”

Soccer has always been Martin’s number-one focus. She’s an avid skier — and a very good one according to what team co-captain Abbey McAuley has heard — but she’ll be giving up her season pass to Sun Peaks for the first time in order to better focus on her season with the WolfPack. Martin began playing soccer when she was just three years old and has played every year since. Growing up in the Kamloops soccer system, she’s had her fair share of games against a lot of her current teammates, many of whom didn’t always enjoy the experience.

“I was definitely really competitive, especially in high school,” Martin said. “My [current] teammate Courtney Daley hated me, she admitted that a few years ago.”

Amidst all the hype and awards, Martin has managed to keep her head on straight. She spoke at length about maintaining her play in order to keep her starting position, how “awesome” her coaches have been to play for and described her teammates as “almost like sisters, I guess.” More than anything, Martin sees herself as having the power to be a role model for young girls in the community.

“We have the teams that come out at our home games that play for KYSA [Kamloops Youth Soccer Association],” Martin said. “They love coming out and holding our hands at the start of the game. I hope that I would inspire them to keep playing soccer.”

Looking ahead Martin will continue to be a big part of the WolfPack women’s soccer program. She will have four more seasons of eligibility after this year and if she continues to play at such a high level she will be a cornerstone of the team for years to come. Spending just a few hours with Kelsey and the people who know her well, it’s hard to comprehend that we’re talking about a girl who is still only 17.

“If I was to look ahead I can see her being one of our top goal-scorers of all time,” McManus said. “I can see her being a captain of this team, without a doubt. She does it through words, because she doesn’t mince her words. She tells people exactly what they should be doing and I like that. And she will go out and be a leader on the field through the centre midfield for us…I think that’s pretty darn good for a rookie.”

If McManus sees Martin as a future captain of the WolfPack, she’s certainly in a good position to learn the role. The WolfPack use a “buddy” system, which pairs a veteran player with a rookie, in order to help the young players adjust to life as a student-athlete at TRU. Martin’s buddy? Current team co-captain Abbey McAuley.

“To be able to come in as a rookie and play the way that she’s been playing already, it only looks like she can go forward,” McAuley said. “I see her being a strong component of the team not only this year but in the future and I think that with the positions that he’s [coach McManus] playing her in, I think she has the ability to go out there and make a name for herself.”

The WolfPack will return to Hillside Stadium at the end of the month to face their provincial rivals University of B.C. Okanagan. It’s a game that will have some special meaning for Martin, so she’s hoping for a lot of fan support.

“They should come out and support us at our next home game. It’s Sept. 29, which is also my birthday, so come support.”