Efrain Martinez feels just as home in the classroom as he does on the Pierce College football field.
Martinez, who is head coach to the Brahmas, teaches mathematics — from algebra and geometry to pre-calculus — at El Camino Real High School.
Even as a teenager, Martinez knew that he wanted to be involved with football when he grew up.
“I knew I wasn’t going to play it forever, so [I asked myself], ‘How do I stay with it for a very long time?’ Coaching,” he said. “How do you get into coaching? You teach.”
Martinez says that in the past, high school sports coaches were required to teach classes. He was torn between choosing to be a physical education teacher — which is the typical route coaches go for — and teaching math, which he says has always been his favorite subject.
“Do I get a degree in P.E. or do I get a degree in math? Which one would benefit the kids more? The math would,” he said.
Martinez earned a master’s degree in mathematics at California State University, Northridge, the same school he attended as an undergraduate. In 2009, he received another master’s degree at University of Central Missouri.
Meanwhile, he began his football training career as a junior varsity coach at his alma mater, Van Nuys High School, from 1996 to 2000. He then moved up to coach at Los Angeles Valley College for a year before heading to El Camino Real to train its football team for two years and then ending up at Pierce. He was a math instructor at all of the schools he coached at.
“All I wanted to do was coach high school football,” Martinez said. “That’s what I wanted to do. One thing just led to another and I wound up here.”
Martinez knows that math isn’t one of the more well-liked subjects by high school students, so he tries to make it fun and relatable for them.
“I try to make it interactive and not very conventional. I try to make it relative to whatever is going on in life; I try to make connections. It’s really a lot of entertainment,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot of teaching going on, but you have to keep the kids entertained. You have to get their attention.”
Martinez also says that as a teacher, he is the same on and off the field.
“The way I treat those kids is the same thing. I care about the kids, you know,” he said. “They see it out there; they see it in there — caring for these kids and nurturing these kids and giving them opportunities to help them become lifelong contributors to society.”
James Hubbard, a defensive back for the Pierce football team who has taken a math class with his coach, says that Martinez teaches just as well as he coaches.
“If you took a class with him, you wouldn’t even know he was a coach. He’s just like a regular teacher,” Hubbard said.
Martinez says that coaching football and teaching math aren’t as dissimilar as they seem to be at first glance, not just because of the problem-solving aspect of it, but also because both cater to his role as an educator.
“Coaches are teachers; teachers are coaches, regardless of how you look at it,” he said.
Martinez credits his time management skills to his success in both of his teaching endeavors.
“You have to be able to delegate to keep it balanced. Otherwise, you’ll go nuts. You have to be able to time manage,” he said. “I have a concept of time. I know that there’s an importance to time, regardless of how anybody looks at it.”
According to Athletic Director Bob Lofrano, because of the many players on the football team, Martinez’ time management and organization are his strongest points as a coach.
“It’s really needed when he ends up not being here until [3:30 p.m.]”
Despite the long hours — Martinez teaches at El Camino from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and attends practice from 3:30 to 10 p.m. — he says he enjoys his jobs.
“There’s more pressure in doing [football] but I don’t consider one more difficult than the other one,” he said. “People ask me, ‘How’s work?’ I say, ‘I don’t work.’ In fact, what I do is fun; it’s enjoyable, I get up and enjoy it. I come here, I enjoy it. I just enjoy not working.”