Centennial High School math teacher Ron Martin is jumping back into coaching in a big way.

Five years after he abandoned high school coaching to spend more time with his two young sons, he returned to coach the Centennial varsity baseball team to a winning season this spring. In addition to that job, he also has accepted the task of coaching the boys varsity soccer team at Mount Hebron, starting in August.

During his 19-year teaching career, Martin has coached as many asthree sports per year. But in 1986, he put all coaching on hold in favor of family time. With his sons now 13 and 10, Martin decided to make his move back into coaching.

In taking over the Centennial baseball team, he promptly helped it achieve a reversal of its 1990 showing of 5-12. The team went 14-8 this year. The Eagles also went from finishing next-to-last in an eight-team league to a second-place finish.

Martin downplays his role in that turnabout.

"We got a couple of pitchers the team didn't have the year before, and that's what turned it around," he said.

But it was clearly evident this past spring that Martin was well-liked and respected by his team.

The new challenge at Mount Hebron will be much tougher. The Vikings soccer team finished last in the league at 1-6. And their overall record last fall was 3-9.

The Mount Hebron soccer program has never produceda contender for a league title, mainly because of geography. The Ellicott City school hasn't drawn many players from the top quality youth-league feeder teams. Most of those players live in Columbia school districts.

As soccer's popularity has spread, that situation has changed somewhat, but not enough to enable the Vikings to become contenders yet.

"I doubt we can make the turnaround in soccer as quickly as in baseball," Martin said. "I'm just taking a wait-and-see attitude. We'll give it a good shot."

Martin, 40, replaces 13-year coach Dennis Gotcher, who was placed on administrative duty after being charged with fondling a 15-year-old student. Those charges are pending.

Martin brings a solid soccer background to Mount Hebron. He has played the sport at the high school, college and club levels and continues to play in a Columbia men's league. And he coached soccer for four years at Catonsville High School.

He played college ball at Catonsville Community College on a team that was ranked sixth in the nation his freshman year.

"We had a couple of guys who went on to play professionally with the original Bays," Martin said. "CCC was a real good team, and we even went on tour in England for two weeks."

Martin made the Junior College League all-star team as a left halfback.

One of the Catonsville High teams he coached came close to winning a league title, but it lost a playoff game on a shootout.

In club ball, he has played at several skill levels, from the highly competitive Division I to the more relaxed Division III in the Maryland Major Soccer League.

Prior to his arrival at Centennial in 1982, Martin taught for nine years at Lansdowne High and one year at Catonsville. Both schools are in Baltimore County.

He coached soccer four years at Catonsville, three of those while teaching at Lansdowne.

The experience of teaching at one school while coaching at a neighboring school should come in handy this fall, since Mount Hebron and Centennial are both in Ellicott City.

"They were looking for someone who taught at Mount Hebron, but when they couldn't find someone, theypicked me," Martin said.

He doesn't anticipate any problem with school loyalty after all these years of rooting for the Eagles soccer team.

Martin prefers a soccer style that stresses offense, but he knows that defense is the name of the game in county play.

"The teams like to use set plays and throw-ins to score, and otherwise they sit back and play a disciplined defensive game," Martin said. "If we have enough guys who have the skills, I'd prefer an offensive-oriented game."

He's not sure what kind of team he'll have when practice begins.

"I don't know much about them yet," he said.

Mount Hebron had only four seniors on last year's squad -- the team had three freshmen and a sophomore on varsity, and the rest were juniors.

So the potential for improvement this year is there. And if anyone can tap that potential, Martin can.

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