When Derek Martin headed into the 2017-18 school year as the new athletic director of O’Connell College Preparatory School, he said he had a three-year plan for getting Buccaneers sports moving in a positive direction. By the end of year two this year, O’Connell has reached many of those three-year plan goals.
“When I came in two years ago, I kind of had in my mind where I would like to be by year three,” Martin said. “But, I’m very happy to say that a lot of what I wanted to see get accomplished by year three got accomplished by year two. Just seeing us have some new programs back … and the overall success of the program with every team sport is just a testament to the kids and how they’ve bought into the program and all the hard work the kids and the coaches have put in.”
Among Martin’s first actions as AD, was instituting a step up in competition by changing the league in which O’Connell’s athletics programs participated from the Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS).
Martin also brought back the girls basketball program after a brief hiatus, and has himself served as head coach of both the boys and girls basketball programs during his tenure at O’Connell.
“One of the of the biggest accomplishments was that, in just the second year after being back, the girls team made the playoffs,” Martin said. “We were in a tough district, and we finished third and made the playoffs after just being a little over a year removed from not even having a team.”
Last year, Martin also revived the tennis program at O’Connell, and had the school host a volleyball tournament.
This season, every team sport aside from the injury-riddled football squad reached the postseason for O’Connell. The Lady Bucs softball team claimed a district championship, and O’Connell had two state qualifiers in tennis.
“From top to bottom, it was a very successful year,” Martin said.
At a small private school like O’Connell, the number of participants in athletics is a constant challenge, Martin said. One major key to making each sports team successful is a high level of cooperation among the various coaches, as many of the Bucs’ athletes participate in multiple sports.
“Ninety percent of our athletes are multi-sport kids,” Martin said. “Most people in a public school, they don’t get to go into that next sport until the previous sport is completely done, but all of my coaches, as well as I, we all understand that we want to help each other out. None of my coaches are just about their sport; we’re all about the program.
“So, we’ve gotten to where we work with each other to where, when the end of the fall is coming, for those kids who play football and volleyball who also play basketball, we let them go ahead and go to basketball practice, and if we can get a game or two in, we go ahead and let them play,” Martin added. “But, as the basketball coach, I understand that I’m not going to run these kids half to death when they’re still at volleyball and football. They’re basically coming in to get the workout in, so when that fall sport does end, they’re not hitting that winter sport cold. And it’s the same thing from winter to spring.”
Going forward with the school’s numbers trending slightly upward, Martin looks to continue to grow the O’Connell athletics department and hopes to bring back more sports — in particular, swimming and track and field — this coming school year.
“We just want to have kids come in who work hard and buy into our system, and I’ve got a great staff of coaches who are going to teach the kids the right way to do things,” Martin said. “If we bring in the kids who buy in, the wins will follow and we’ll be bringing in a few more district championships. … But, at the end of the day, the true measure of success of the program is going to measured by what we see the kids doing in three or four years — what they’re doing with their lives, and did we teach them enough to go out and be productive.”