As Eric Martinez roamed the streets of Argentina with his Olympic Development Program Region III team in February, he soon realized a glaring difference in the athletic culture compared with the United States.
It was all soccer, all the time.
“Everywhere we went – even in downtown – there were fields to play on and kids running around with soccer balls,” the Providence Day senior said of the country known for producing some of the best players in the world. “And on the field everything is faster, from the speed of the game to the players themselves.”
Martinez is using that experience to become one of the top players in N.C. An All-state selection last year, the center back will play at the University of South Carolina next year.
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“The future of the Gamecocks' defense lies with Martinez, who will make an immediate impact as soon as he steps on campus,” wrote thebigspur.com, a Web site that covers USC athletics and named Martinez most valuable player of the S.C. Elite Youth Soccer Camp in July.
For the short term, though, Martinez is helping push Providence Day to a playoff run. After the team struggled to start the year, the Chargers' defeat of previously No. 1 ranked Charlotte Latin on Sept. 25 put Providence Day at top of the conference.
Martinez admits to looking a bit toward the future. He already knows that South Carolina opens its 2009 schedule at rival Clemson.
“There were people that came out to the games in Argentina, but not like (at Clemson),” he said. “But, it gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I have a chance to come in and make a difference right away.”