Working with youth and giving back to his community are two passions of Ricky Martinez, a 2006 graduate of Southern Arkansas University.
He works in outpatient therapy for OrthoSurgeons in Little Rock, does some personal training, and volunteers as a cross-country coach at Little Rock Christian Academy (LRCA). Teaching kids the fundamentals of long-distance running keeps him running and gives him joy, a feeling that reconnects him to his Mulerider mentors.
“I was recruited to SAU as a jumper/sprinter by Coach Dan Veach,” Martinez said. “We had a great team that was very close. SAU Track gave the experience of traveling the South. I was able to go places I never imagined going to.”
In addition to track, Martinez “also enjoyed the dorm life. I was a Resident Assistant as well.” As a graduate student, Martinez also served as graduate assistant for the Wellness Center and Intramural Sports. “I learned so much about managing a gym, thanks to the late Coach Jay Adcox and the late Coach Leonard Biddle.”
“Coach Veach taught me to push myself and learn my limits,” Martinez said. “I watched him coach our team and took mental notes of the joy and excitement he had just from being around his team.”
He said the same passion that Veach brought to coaching at SAU is evident in his own approach. “I have it with my kids. Track helped me get through school. Running became my escape – from tough classes, feeling homesick, and other negative distractions.”
His time at SAU helped him lock in on athletics as a means of helping others achieve their personal goals.
He received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science and earned a master’s degree in kinesiology. He also participated in the Mulerider track program, which, in those years, “was not part of a conference,” he said.
Having lived in Little Rock for the past 10 years, Martinez said he brings his sense of compassion, as well as his athletic ability, to children.
“It gives me a natural, high feeling. I have so much joy at the end of every practice and cross-country meet.”
“Go! Running,” a group of runners on Facebook, honored Martinez with a post in December 2016 lauding his community spirit.
“He selflessly volunteers hundreds of hours as a track and cross-country coach for Little Rock Christian Academy,” the post states. “After graduation, (Ricky) moved to Little Rock and took up distance running. Because of his love of the sport and love of kids, it didn’t take him long to find his home at Little Rock Christian. He makes as many practices as he can, often running with and encouraging the students as they take each step together. He has been with the school for eight years, helping them to nine state championships, often taking personal vacation time to be there.”
“It’s not about money or receiving something back,” Martinez said of his volunteering, “it’s about giving without expecting anything in return. That’s the true beauty of volunteering. Watching these 7th-and-8th-graders grow into state champions has been a great satisfaction for me. It lets me know that they trust in me and listen to what I say when I’m coaching them.”
LRCA Cross-Country Coach Christiana Nipper said of Martinez, “We could not do what we do without Ricky. He is absolutely incredible.”
The members of “GO! Running” saluted Martinez as “our running hero.”
Martinez is originally from Odessa, Texas, where he played football and ran track from 7th to 11th grade. He spent his senior high school year in Pecos, Texas, where he lived with grandparents and also ran track.