The journey of a Division III student-athlete is seldom considered. Through the daily routine of practice and intensity of competition, the stepping stones of what brought the athlete to where they are now can easily be forgotten.
For three members of the men’s soccer team, the journey to Albion College is not as much a reminder as it is a family affair — a family affair that stemmed from opportunity, support and above all, dreams.
Gabe Martinez is a junior from South Lyon, Michigan. In his third year on the Briton soccer team, he has established himself as an integral player, dishing out two goals and three assists in the 2016 season. His younger brother, Michael, is a first-year student and is also part of the team. A promising player out of high school, Michael ran into a bit of misfortune this season and is currently recovering from a broken leg. Last, but certainly not least, is Christian Hurtado, their cousin. Hurtado spent two years at Phoenix College in his home state of Arizona before making the trek to Michigan to continue his academic and athletic career.
For Gabe, Michael and Christian, the journey began miles away, in the Mexican city of Guaymas, Sonora. When Gabe and Michael’s father was offered a job in Arizona, the entire family moved to the United States, with Michael still in the womb. Although their trek has now led them to Michigan, the three always consider Guaymas to be home.
“It’s kind of like two cultures,” Gabe explained. “Here in Michigan, we have a home, but we’ll always have roots back to Mexico, so we basically get the best of both worlds.”
This blend of culture also translated athletically, as the three were able to see many different types of soccer through their family roots. In Mexican states like Sonora and Sinaloa, the state from which Gabe and Michael’s mother is from, street soccer proved to be a test of both skills and smarts.
“I think it did benefit us in a positive way,” said Michael. “In the U.S., it’s a lot more organized, like there’s a coach telling you to do something. In Mexico, we would see a lot more street soccer, so we would see a lot of different types of play through that. I feel like seeing that gave me a lot more knowledge on the field.”
Viewing these different types of play also helped the three shape their perspective on the journey they’ve made, of which they have credited a lot to their parents. “For some areas in Mexico, soccer is more than just a sport. It’s a way of getting out,” said Gabe. “Some of those kids only get so many chances, but then here [in the United States] you come and you get chance after chance after chance, and that’s why we have to be so grateful to our parents for giving us these opportunities.”
Thankfully, family is something that has never been far away in their journey to Albion. Through technology, family from as far away as Arizona and Mexico are able to hear how the three are performing. “If we have a bad or good game, they know,” joked Michael. “We have a really good support system.”
While soccer remains a constant in their present lives, they also are cognizant of the future. A political science major, Gabe is planning on attending law school after his time at Albion. Christian is studying international business with plans to go into the restaurant industry. Given that he is only a first-year, Michael is undecided on his path of study, but he is interested in both journalism and international business.
Wherever their lives may take them, all three Britons are committed to one thing: being proud of what has brought them here today.
“I think it’s a great thing, being three young, Hispanic student-athletes in a predominantly white college like Albion,” said Gabe. “We like to hold ourselves to a high standard and represent ourselves in the best way that we can.”
Photo courtesy of Michael Martinez