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April 22, 2011 > A community comes together to remember aquatics coach

A community comes together to remember aquatics coach

By Sanjna Shukla

On Monday, April 11, the Bay Area lost respected and loved water polo and swim coach, Joseph Martinez. Martinez, 28, was dedicated to coaching both water polo and swimming, and his passing has affected many involved in Fremont aquatic programs. Both athletes and parents are devastated by the unexpected loss of such a motivational and inspirational human being.

"When I started out playing for Coach Joe in fourth grade, we would lose games 22-1. Without Joe, there is no way we would be where we are now," Ohlone Renegades' water polo player Tatiana McCuaig reminisced about the coach.

Martinez coached both women's and men's water polo at Ohlone, and was involved in various aquatic programs around Fremont for the past 10 years. Laura Conn, McCuaig's fellow polo teammate, was also coached by Martinez from a very young age.

"I've known Joe since I was 9, and it's not only losing a coach, it's like losing a father," said Conn. "He never asked anything of us, but to give a 110 percent. Walking out onto the pool deck isn't going to be the same."

Grant Huang, a member on the Ohlone Renegades' men's' water polo team, reminisced about his time with the coach. "Joe was one of those coaches who dedicated his whole life into polo and swimming. He would have wanted us to remember him as an inspiration for us to work harder than we have before. He put his heart into us improving not only in the pool, but also as people."

Martinez was also loved among the athlete's parents for his love and passion for the sport. Teri Westerhoff, a parent of two water polo athletes, said of the coach, "Joe wasn't a rich man, but he was a rich man. Just look at all the relationships he cultivated. He was rich, and how he's drawing us all together: He's made the swimming and water polo community one big family."

Coach Joe was known for his close and personal relationships with each and every one of his athletes. Regardless of how many teams he coached, Joe took it upon himself to ensure that every individual got the attention and coaching that would make them the best athlete that they could be.

Mary Tanakit, a mother of two who were coached by Joe for the Mission Valley Barracudas of East Bay Swim League, said, "I guess every good coach knows their players strengths, but Joe could articulate to a player just how that strength contributed to the team in an important way. As strict as Joe could be, he was also playful, and this endeared him to his athletes."

Martinez was also heavily involved in the Mission San Jose High School aquatics program. He coached girls water polo, as well as boys and girls swimming. MSJ Athletics Director Thomas Thomsen was a close colleague and friend to Martinez.

"He spent countless hours of his day dedicating himself to his athletes. His mentorship was invaluable to so many young adults. The many lives he touched will always remember Joe for his never ending love and friendship."

In order to honor and celebrate what would have been Martinez's 29th birthday, MSJ organized a candlelight memorial. People were encouraged to celebrate his birthday, and reflect on all the happy times that they spent with the coach.

Cory Audiat, who will now be the sole coach for the MSJ swim teams, said of the late coach: "Joe was such an influential role model, friend and teammate. He was so loved and appreciated by everyone. This is not only a loss to Mission, but also to the city of Fremont. It's amazing the impact one individual can have on so many. We all loved him so much, and we all still do."

Coach Martinez was a loved and respected coach, and he will truly be missed.

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