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Coach looks to inspire athletes

March 6, 2008

Martha Brennan is one busy lady. She is a track coach, professor, wife and mother. She is known by her students and team to be dedicated and enthusiastic.

“On the track, Martha is a great coach that pushes her athletes to excel. She is also inspiring in different areas other than coaching; as a professor and a mother. I have had her as a professor and have learned a lot taking her courses,” track team member Colleen Kopel said. “Martha is a mother of three girls which is not an easy thing when you are traveling on the road every weekend. Any spare moment she has is spent with her family.”

Brennan, head coach of the men’s and women’s track and field, is from the small town of Byron, in Southern Minnesota. Brennan’s mom was a gymnastics coach. From the age of five she was involved with the sport. She really liked to run and jump. While in grade school, she watched her brother compete in athletics. She played on the volleyball team with her twin sister in high school, but since she was above average in track and field, she made that her main sport starting in high school and continuing through college. One of the major reasons Brennan likes track and field so much is because there are so many events.;

Brennan said knew at a young age that coaching was something that she wanted to pursue. While coaching at the college level, she decided she wanted to continue her own education to become a professor.

As a coach, one of her greatest accomplishments was becoming a first national qualifier at Texas A&M.

On and off the track she learns something new every day.

“You learn a lot about different personalities and how to deal with personal problems off the track,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “You learn more about the rhythm of the sport and how people respond. Every year there is a new pool of kids—the same plan won’t work for everyone. You need to have patience and have motivation.”

One measure of satisfaction is when a coach can make a significant improvement in one of their team members, according to Brennan.

“When other people blew off a member of the team, I took and trained with him and realized, yes, I am a good coach and can develop anyone,” Brennan said.

“I appreciate the time and effort she puts into the program and I think she has helped out the program immensely,” Leah Korf, a track team member said. “This can be seen through the accomplishments of the athletes in my two years on the team.”

“There are always instances when you feel you should have done something different,” said Brennan about her career in coaching.

With every sport and career there are ups and downs.

“She went through all the same troubles at one point that all track athletes face during their athletic career,” Rebecca Ponick, a track team member said.

It was an easy decision for Brennan to come to River Falls. Brennan’s husband Bob grew up in Iowa, so the change meant they could be closer to family. Brennan and her husband wanted to be in the Midwest. Working for a Division III university is low key, meaning it would be easier to balance her life.

Brennan has three children, ages nine, six, and three, with another due in May. Once a week her children race around the track; they like to jump the hurdles and jump in the sand, and Brennan is teaching her nine-year-old how to pole vault.

“Her girls are the happiest kids you will see.” Kopel said “They are always smiling and enjoy being with their mother. They are also very active. They all enjoy track and field and love to run around. They want to be like their mom.”

Brennan is a role model and inspiration for her students and track teams alike. She has the experience and knowledge that will benefit future track athletes. Her team is inspired by the dedication she demonstrates.

She works hard to stay fit by lifting weights and running every day.

“I love how Martha is the encyclopedia of track and field, whether it is about learning techniques in events, planning out running workouts or even how to help heal an injury; she knows it all.” Kopel said.

“She is a smart woman. Her ability to administrate is excellent,” Torrion Amie, an assistant coach on the women’s track team said.

Brennan’s athletes learn from her on a daily basis that in track, patience and hard work are necessities.

“Things take time. No one can learn a new event overnight. Each day at practice people improve a little bit at a time,” Ponick said. “Some events take only a week to learn while others may take a whole season.”

Brennan received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Louisiana and went on to receive her master’s degree in educational administration at the same institution. She received her Ph.D from Texas A&M in educational administration.