For most professional athletes, the off-season brings a chance to return home, take vacations, rehabilitate seasonal injuries, and start training for the year ahead. For LA Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, it also means schoolwork, in an attempt to earn his college diploma.
Martinez, 25, is currently in the midst of earning an accounting degree from Miami University in Ohio, where he played college hockey until the conclusion of his junior year when he decided to turn professional.
“My parents said they’d support me no matter which decision I made, just as long as I got my degree, so I kind of have to uphold that promise,” Martinez said.
Education is extremely important in Martinez’s family, as both parents are college graduates, and Dad Martinez owns an MBA.
“It’s important to finish. I need that piece of paper,” said Martinez, who hopes to graduate in the next couple of years.
“Strictly from an educational standpoint, sure I’d rather have done it four years straight, but at the time I thought it was the best decision, hockey wise, to move on.”
Most of Martinez’s remaining course load comes in the form of online classes, which are taken primarily during the summer, although there are a few assignments that are completed during the season, and there have been some recent in-person courses required.
A few summers ago, Martinez attended a required six-week course that reviewed the fundamentals of accounting. Whereas many of the other students were able to rattle off the differences between debits and credits right from the start, it took Martinez a while to regain his footing in the classroom after a two-year hiatus.
“I felt like my head was going to spin,” said Martinez, who admits the toughest thing about continuing his education has been going back after being away.
“Getting in that routine again and writing papers, it’s kind of tough,” he said.
Hockey is the number one priority in Martinez’s life right now, but he is adamant about having a degree to fall back on when his playing days are over.
Math and science have always been Martinez’s strong suits, as he admits he isn’t the best writer. If not accounting, Martinez would have chosen biology as a major.
“I’d like to think that everyone needs an accountant at some point or another, and there’s always going to be demand, so it’s not a bad thing to be involved in,” said Martinez.
“I highly doubt that I’ll actually go into the [accounting] field, but at least it’s something that’s got a pretty general business feel,” Martinez said. “Miami did a good job of making us well-rounded within the business field. The business degree from Miami is pretty good, they’ve got a pretty good business program.”
Before anyone hits the panic button, it should be made clear that Martinez has no intentions of leaving hockey anytime soon.
“I’ll have to be able to stay involved in the game, I won’t be able to cut it completely from my life,” said Martinez, who was drafted 95th overall by the Kings in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Now that Martinez is earning his keep with the Kings, his tuition is his own responsibility, which may not have been the case had he stayed for what would have been his senior year.
“I don’t think my mom and dad would be too happy if I asked them to foot the bill, said Martinez, laughing. “It’s pretty pricey, especially out of state, but it’s alright, it will be worth it in the end.”
When asked if he had any advice to give someone faced with the choice he was forced to make, Martinez conceded that he isn’t in a position to give many wise words because he is still one of the people working his way towards his goal, but also had this to say:
“Make a decision and go with it – don’t look back. Keep chipping away, slowly but surely you’ll get there.”
Sounds like useful advice for any scholar or athlete – or perhaps, like Martinez, both.