"Meet the Coaches" - Women's Soccer Head Coach Martin Desmarais

Martin Desmarais on the sideline during the national anthem prior to a contest on Roberts Field.

Cambridge, Mass. (March 17) - As part of a series that is taking place throughout the 2020-21 academic year, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) is featuring a number of head coaches and DAPER staff members to learn more about them. This next installment of the series features Martin Desmarais, who is in his 13th year at MIT as head coach of the women's soccer program.

As part of each feature, we have included a written question and answer session, along with a video interview where recruits, alumni, fans and others can learn more about the MIT staff. If you can't currently visit MIT, we will bring MIT to you!

What is your favorite professional sports team?

Arsenal and Paris St. Germain are the teams I follow the most, but over the last two decades the favorite shared sports experience with family and friends has been watching the New England Patriots.

Who is your favorite athlete of all-time and why?

"The Great One" – Wayne Gretzky. When I think about watching some of the recent greats in their prime, such as Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi and Tom Brady, they are all impressive but watching Gretzky was something different. He played at one speed and everyone else played at another. As a coach looking back, his statistical dominance is unparallel. He is considered the greatest goal scorer of all time, with the most career goals and the most goals in a season, but he was also the most dominant passer. He has the top 8 seasons in the NHL record book for most assists and he has 11 of the top 12 seasons for most assists. In hockey, you get a point for a goal and a point for an assist and Gretzky has the most career points, but he is so far from everyone else that if you took away all his goals, he still has the most points in league history. Every time someone talks about "GOAT" nowadays, I remember Gretzky and those stats and it just blows my mind what he did as player.

What is your favorite movie?

When it comes to movies, I think immediacy colors what I would call "favorite." But I would say that the most influential movie for me in terms of entertainment choices is probably Oliver Stone's "The Doors" because it started a life-long obsession with band biopics that persists to this day and they are still my favorite type of movie. Whether based on an actual band or fiction, I can't get enough – from so awesome you wish it was real ("Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains") to so tragically stupid you wish it wasn't real ("What We Do is Secret") to so insane you wouldn't believe it was real and you wouldn't believe it was made up ("Lords of Chaos"). I have seen them all and can't wait for the next one.

What was your favorite part of working in journalism?

The thing I miss the most about journalism is the constant stimulation of new information. As a journalist you are always learning something new – and from experts – and by writing about it and trying to educate readers, who may know little about the topic to start, you really need to quickly get down to the nuts and bolts, which is the best way to learn. A lot of times you go into a story not really know that much about a topic, but you certainly come out of it with a whole new understanding – and when you are writing almost a story a day that knowledge really starts to add up. 

What have you been doing to keep busy working from home since last March?

Well keeping busy hasn't been hard because, coaches have had to revamp their training methods to fit social distancing rules and virtual workouts and other challenges thanks to the pandemic – and none of us had any experience with that before obviously. I wouldn't say I have had to throw all my 20 years of coaching experience out the window, but when it comes to on-the-field training it feels like it. This past fall, I got my first taste of the challenge of that having some practices with the few seniors on campus, so I have spent a lot of time since just trying to develop new ways to train soccer that continue to improve my players but also keep them from constantly being disappointed that they can't actually really play the game the love at the moment. 

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?

The Brooks Range in Alaska. I would not claim to be a massive outdoor nature person and generally I am more of a water and boating person, having grown up on a lake, but there is just something awe-inspiring about the vast expanse of some of the northern-most stretches of North America that I would just like to experience once in my lifetime.

What is your favorite sport, besides soccer, to watch on TV or stream?

Aside from aforementioned watching of New England Patriots with family and friends, I would say if I was by myself and wanted to watch a sport that wasn't soccer (purely hypothetical of course because there is always a soccer game being played somewhere in the world) it would be late-fall college football.

What was your most memorable moment with MIT women's soccer?

I think all the conference championships are special as a memory each in their own way, but I certainly have a special place in my heart for my "firsts" – the first NEWMAC Championship in 2009, the first NEWMAC Regular Season Title in 2012, first NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2012, the first time hosting the NCAA Tournament in 2014, the first perfect (10-0) NEWMAC Regular Season in 2019.

What is your favorite quote?​

"Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake, we must not interrupt him too soon." – Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. This is more of an internal one that I think of to remind me, with a little levity, that my team may do something to win, but the other team may just as likely to do something to lose – and we had better be ready to take advantage of either one because the result is the same.

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