They were all there two weeks ago when North Rose-Wolcott played Marion in boys soccer. About former 200 players lined up across the field, grouped by decade starting with the 1970s, to show how much he meant to them. Former swimmers came too, not just soccer players.
Forty-four years of memories. Forty-year years of friendships, all right there for Gordon “Scotty” Martin to see on the field that was named in his honor in 2009.
“It was such as wonderful feeling,” the 74-year-old says with richness and sincerity in his voice, the one that still has plenty of the Scottish accent to it. “I never expected to see anything like that.”
Whenever NR-W plays its last match this fall, that’s it for Martin. He’s retiring, walking away on his own terms with sixth most wins in Section V boys soccer history in a coaching career that has included eight Section V championships won in three different decades, a pair of state runner-up finishes in 1993 and 1995 and nine Wayne County titles.
His Cougars (13-4) are the No. 2 seeds in the Class B2 Tournament and play in Wednesday’s semifinals against No. 6 Attica (8-7-2). It’ll be the 800th game in his varsity coaching career. NR-W won its Saturday quarterfinal with No. 7 Wayland-Cohocton, 5-2.
“(I’ll miss) the kids. I’ll miss the game, but I’m ready now,” says Martin, who came to Rochester from Glasgow, Scotland at age 15. “If it weren’t for the game, I might have gone back home. I was a lonely kid back in 1956.”
He felt way again four years ago after his wife, Sharon, died following a 19-year battle with cancer. They were married July 17, 1965. She died July 17, 2011. But the best part of Martin’s story isn’t that his soccer team is good enough to send him out with his first first sectional title since 1999. The best part is this: Scotty Martin isn’t lonely anymore.
In fact, he’s engaged to Sally Hollis Roche, the girl he had a crush on as a high school sophomore but never asked out until they reconnected nearly two years ago at their 43rd high school reunion.
“I’m in a happy place. I really am. It was difficult (after Sharon died),” Martin says of his more than two years of grief. “But Sally Ann has filled the void. She doesn’t replace my wife. I loved her dearly. This is just a new experience that I’m ready for.”
‘I loved her dearly’
Martin knew Roche only casually in school. She had a boyfriend and although he gained footing at West High, which is now Wilson Magnet, as an all-star soccer player in 1958-59, the boy from Scotland with the funny accent was still finding his way. “I knew I was getting better at the King’s English when people only asked me to repeat myself twice,” says Martin, who is known for his wit and good humor.
Gordon “Scotty” Martin inducted into state soccer Hall of Fame
He met Sharon the summer before his senior year of high school. He and some buddies saw some girls go into Henderson’s Drug Store in Penn Yan, Yates County, so they followed. Martin would go on to a standout career at SUNY Cortland, where his 24 goals in three seasons still rank ninth on the all-time list. Coincidentally, Roche also attended Cortland. She even recalls watching him play there, but they never connected.
Martin was hired at NR-W to teach physical education and coach soccer and boys and girls swimming. He coached junior-varsity soccer for two years, then was elevated to varsity after 18-year coach Ted Woods, who was also athletic director, stepped aside to become an administrator at the Wayne County school.
Martin fell in love with soccer in Glasgow and came to Rochester with his father, brothers and sister a few years after his mother died. What about that nickname? Because of his accent as a teen, “Scotty,” is what all the American kids called him.
A United States Army veteran, he didn’t arrive at NR-W until he was 30.
“The thing that amazes me about him,” says Mike Virts, a 1979 NR-W graduate who has been Martin’s assistant coach for nearly 30 years, “is he shows up at every practice, every game, every year with the same enthusiasm and drive.”
He also demands a lot.
“If you’re going to play for him, you better be ready to pay the price,” Woods says about rigorous conditioning, which also translated to developing good swimmers. “But he knows the game. He’s a good strategist.”
Longtime Wayne coach Tim Mattle says Martin is vocal on the sideline and always ready to switch formations to try to change his team’s fortune. “He’s clever,” Mattle says. “He got (the) most out of what his boys could do … and that’s because he’s a great coach.”
Martin’s passion rubs off on his players, they say.
“He’s the kind of guy,” adds Woods, one of his best friends, “who makes kids into overachievers.”
The joke among area coaches who know Martin well is that he always thinks his team should have won.
“North Rose has never really lost a game. The other team just somehow ends up with more goals,” jokes Section V boys soccer coordinator, Gary Pollock. “Scotty will say, ‘We were all over them!’ And we’ll go, ‘Scotty, you lost 4-0.’ “
Martin shoots back, “But the score isn’t reflective of the game! We had the better of play.”
“Everybody just loves him,” says former Pittsford Mendon coach Joe Borrosh, who has been on the Section V soccer committee with Martin for decades. “Scotty is a bundle of fun, a joy to be around.”
He says sentimental, too. Martin says the prayer each year to open the state tournament banquet. No stranger to a good laugh, Martin can be stern “if we’re screwing off,” says NR-W senior center midfielder, Elijah Durham.
While Virts says Martin has softened somewhat, realizing how kids have changed, he never “sugarcoats,” things. “They know what he’s looking for and when they don’t put that out there he lets them know it,” Virts says.
From Martin’s upbringing to his extensive coaching, players know he has a keen understanding of soccer. “Knows it like the back of his hand,” Durham says. That carries weight when he barks out instructions.
Cody Welkley, a 6-foot-4 junior goalie, says players know how much soccer means to Martin. “He’s almost like a second Dad to me … he’s been coaching me my whole life,” Welkley says.
Martin has coached the sons of former players and even this year he’s coaching the grandson of a former player. Dustin Reed, a senior forward this fall, is that player. He has six goals and three assists. Senior forward Connor Pendleton, a fifth-year varsity player, has a team-leading 15 goals and four assists and Durham has eight goals and six assists for a team that started 7-1.
Martin’s own family includes son Eric, 46, daughter Jennifer, 43, and two grandchildren. Jennifer moved back home about seven years ago to help care for her mother. “I have total admiration for how she fought (cancer),” Martin, who retired from teaching in 2002, says of his wife.
After Sharon died he said to himself, “So now what do I do?”
He turned to soccer, just as he did as a teen when coach Bob Lays invited him to try out for the West High team. “Lo and behold I knocked the ball around and doors opened. Soccer was the difference,” Martin says wistfully, “it really was.”
Soccer also helped bridge his life from Sharon to Roche, 73, who is divorced and has been single for 30-plus years. She’ll retire next week after at 52-year career at the University of Rochester, where she’s the building coordinator for the library.
“I hadn’t thought of even dating,” Martin says.
But then he went to the reunion. “I found myself in a different place,” he says after talking with Roche.
“He was very persistent,” she says, laughing about his requests to take her out. “He’s a very giving, loving man. We have so many things in common. We like music, sports. He’s a dancer.”
They got engaged Aug. 23 and plan to marry Jan. 2, a week before Martin turns 75. They feel lucky to have found each other again. He’s selling his house and moving in with her in Irondequoit. They plan to spend winter months in Florida and traveling. And for the record, Roche didn’t ask Martin to stop coaching.
This was his choice, the start of a second act to a wonderful life.
“I’ll miss it. It’s bittersweet,” he says of coaching soccer. “But I’m ready to travel, to go back home and see family in Scotland. I want to do that.”
Gordon “Scotty” Martin
Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland.
Saying goodbye: After 44 seasons coaching soccer at North Rose-Wolcott, including 42 with the boys’ varsity, the 74-year-old former physical education teacher is retiring. His teams won eight Section V titles, nine Wayne County crowns and were state runners-up in 1993 and 1995 in Class CC.
Career record: 439-278-82. Ranks sixth in Section V and 14th in state history in wins.
Back in the day: City League all-star in 1958-59 and four-year varsity player at West High (now Wilson Magnet). Played three years at SUNY Cortland and still ranks ninth with 24 career goals.
Did you know? Martin is known for soccer, but he also coached swimming at NR-W for 32 years. The soccer field was renamed in his honor in 2009.