HOUSTON – The stellar career of Rocio Martin as both a student-athlete and student assistant coach has come to an end. Martin graduated this past weekend with family and teammates there to honor her. She graduated from Bauer College of Business with a business degree cum laude. Although Martin’s athletic and academic journey with the university is complete she has left an impact on the program that will be evident for years to come.
Martin came to Houston in 2012 as the No. 44 player in Spain’s open division and after completing her playing career accepted a position as the Cougars’ student assistant coach for the 2016-17 season. The two separate experiences allowed Martin to grow in multiple ways.
“I definitely learned how to survive on my own,” Martin said. “As my father says: You came here as a girl, and you’re leaving as a woman. This experience gave me some great teammates that are my friends for the rest of my life, and some great coaches that as soon as I walked the stage became my friends as well.”
Martin made an immediate impact when she arrived on campus, winning 14 matches during her freshman season, including a victory against No. 59 Stephen F. Austin. However, Martin quickly learned the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a student-athlete at the University of Houston.
“When you come here as a student-athlete, everybody thinks that just because they give you a scholarship, you don’t have to do anything else during college. What they don’t understand is that they are giving you a chance to prove that you are worth the scholarship.
“You need to wake up early for workouts, then go to class, then go to practice again, then tutoring to study for your exams, etc. Honestly, sometimes that felt like a full-time job. During that time you earn your scholarship every day. In other words, hard work and effort are the main things I learned as an athlete here.”
Martin did earn her scholarship at the University of Houston. In her four seasons on campus, she compiled a 55-40 record on the court. Martin excelled in the classroom as well, earning American Athletic Conference All-Academic honors and eventually her degree from the Bauer College of Business. Fernandez’s hard work on the court and in the classroom eventually earned her a role as the program’s student assistant following her senior season.
“Being a coach with this new program and the new girls was great,” Martin said. Coach (Courtney) Steinbock and Coach (Jason) Potthoff trusted me since day one to help the girls on and off the court. I felt very comfortable coaching, and I'm thankful they gave me the opportunity and the trust to help them build this new program.”
With the change in roles for Martin, came a new experience in the sport that she knows and loves. Martin had to make the transition of making herself better on the court, to making others better.
“It's definitely very different being on court as a player than as a coach,” Martin said. “However, I experienced it with the same passion. When I was a player I could control what I was doing on the court, and as a coach I can't really control what the players do. They are the ones that perform out there, and you're just there trying to guide them and help them as much as you can. At the end of the day, the ones that win matches are the players and they should get credit for that.”
Martin has found new experiences in the joy that the sport can bring as well. Winning as a player can be very different from winning as a coach. A sense of pride comes from seeing your players succeed on the court that can’t be found from playing.
“When I played, and we would win as a team, the happiness and the feeling of accomplishment that I had was amazing,” Martin said. “I felt like they brought me here to perform at 100%, and when you do you feel very proud of yourself and your teammates. However, when you're on the other side as a coach, that happiness is different, because you're happy for them. They did the hard work, and you're there to help them, and when they get that job done it's very rewarding and comforting to see them with the same happiness that I had just a year ago.”
Regardless of whether Martin is a student-athlete, a coach on the staff, or an alum, she will always remember what it means to don the Cougar red and white.
“Being a Cougar means pride,” Martin said. “When I wear something with the ‘UH’ or ‘Cougars’ on it I feel like I represent a great school and a better team. The University of Houston has given me so much as a player, and as a student, that I will always be proud to be a UH alum. This program has a great future ahead of them, and I’ll be watching them every step of the way. I’ll definitely miss the girls. They’re a great group with great potential to become a good team nationally.”
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