If there was a prize at the Lipscomb basketball camps for the coach who brought his team from the farthest distance from Nashville Rodrigo "Duck" Martinez would be the all-time winner. This week Martinez, a former Bison basketball player, has been on campus with six players from the club team he coaches in Vacalla, Switzerland. In addition to watching over his players, ages 14-to-15, he has also been renewing old friendships. During a lunch break from camp activities he spent some time with Lipscombsports.com.
What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?
"I played basketball from1993 through 1998. I was a 6-foot-8, 240-pound post player. I played for coach Don Meyer. The assistant coaches when I first came to Lipscomb were Mike Roller and Ralph Turner.
"Eventually, coach Turner took a head coaching job at Union University. Tom Kelsey came over and joined coach Meyer. Jason Shelton also was part of the staff. John Hudy was also an assistant coach.
"When coach Roller took the head coaching job at the high school coach Hudy became the coach for post players."
What influenced you to want to play for Lipscomb?
"I came from Rosareo, Argentina. When I was 18 and finished high school I decided I wanted to continue my studies in the U.S. and I was lucky enough and blessed enough that coach Meyer offered me a scholarship to attend Lipscomb. It was a fantastic five years.
"I had seen pictures of the school. Coach Meyer contacted Rod Pastore's Dad. Rod was a former Bison. They showed me a copy of "The Babbler". I did not really know what I was getting into. All I wanted was to keep playing basketball. My Mom was very intense about me pursuing a university degree.
"I knew it was a good place. I knew coach Meyer was a good coach. It was my first trip to the United States. I came here for the start of the school year."
How did you get the nickname "Duck"?
"When I was a baby my mother called me patito, which means duckling. As I grew up it became pato which means duck. It is a common nickname that moms give to their babies in Argentina."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"It has to be every time we beat Belmont. Those were very special games. Every time we were able to outperform them on the basketball coach it was awesome.
"We played two games against them at Memorial Gym at Vanderbilt. We won one and lost one. But it didn't matter where we played them. We could have played them at the Burton Gym and it was still going to be a great game. Every time we took the floor against Belmont it was something else.
"My sophomore year we made it to the NAIA Final Four and that was big along with the memories you make with your teammates in the dorm and on road trips."
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"All of the coaches from coach Meyer to coach Roller and coach Hudy. From an athletic point of view the messages and the lessons they passed to all of us are priceless.
"Coach Meyer passed along a passion for teaching and a love for the game to all of us. I remember after working my first summer camp I was laying in my room at High Rise and looking up at the ceiling and thinking how much I would love to coach."
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
"I enjoyed going to classes and the relationships that I built with my teachers and classmates who were not part of the basketball team.
"My nickname was `Duck' and I remember a couple of my classmates who were part of the `McQuiddy Maniacs' used to bring their duck calls they used while hunting. Every time I would get on the court they would start making noise."
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
"It has to be a combination of the spiritual part and the athletics.
"I took many things away from the basketball court. But the first thing that comes to mind is to do your best and do what you love. If you your best you should be satisfied with your effort.
"From the spiritual part it is all about being a servant - to always be ready and eager to help people. Coach Meyer talked about being a servant-leader on the court and that was also the message all the professors tried to get across to us was to be a servant and serve one another."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"I had a great time going to class. I had a double major in computer information systems and business administration.
"The No. 1 person I think about is my advisor, Seth Carmody. He was a great influence for me. He was awesome in guiding me through the classes I needed to choose and the path I needed to take academically. One year he told me if I take this class instead of this one you can finish with a double major instead of a major and a minor. He was on top of his game.
"I get a chance to see him every time I come back to Nashville. It is always fun to see him and go out and grab something to eat together.
"Michelle Putnam is another teacher I remember from the computer department. I enjoyed going to her classes. She also was a great influence on me.
In the Bible department I remember Mac Lynn, Dr. Tom Seals and Dr. Mark Black."
Where do you live now?
"I live in Vacallo, Switzerland. I am going into my fourth year of living there."
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
"I coach at a club, Società Atletica (SAV) Vacallo, which is a multi-sport club. I coach the under 19 team. We also have rugby, soccer, snow skiing and track. It is a very big organization.
"It is in Vacalla, Switzerland. It is in the south of Switzerland. The language we speak is Italian and the culture is very similar to the culture in Italy.
"I am the technical director of the youth movement. I coordinate the under-19 team, the under-16 team and the under-14 team. I select the coaches and provide them with a technical program. I have to make sure we are developing our players and making our teams better."
How have your players enjoyed the trip and the camp?
"They are having a great time. We are here until July 2 and then we are heading to New York City until July 5.
"It will be more of a sightseeing trip. Luka Berva, another coach with me, is going to work with the kids trying to let them discover how many roles they have as young men. They are sons, they are brothers, they are friends, they are basketball players and they are students. We want to help them identify all these roles and develop strategies to fulfill those roles to the best of their potential. We learned a lot of that from coach Meyer."
Before you started coaching you had a long professional career. What was it like to play basketball professionally in two different countries?
"Right after college I went back to play basketball in Argentina. I played five years in the first league in Argentina.
"It was a dream come true. From the time I was 13 or 14 all I wanted to do was play basketball. I wanted to be able to make basketball a profession.
"It didn't matter if I was playing in front of 10,000 or in front of 500. What matters are your teammates, the way you play and the way you execute things. It has been a lot of fun playing overseas.
"I signed to play in the A2 League in Italy where I played for another seven to eight years. I was getting old. My back was hurting a little too much. My knees were almost done. I decided to stop playing and started coaching. I love it.
"I picked up Italian while playing there. It was easier to learn Italian than English because Italian and Spanish are similar."
Tell us about your family.
"I am single. My Mom, Nelly, and Dad, Arturo, still live in Argentina. They are retired and doing great. My brother, Sebastian, works in Argentina.
"After I get back to Switzerland from this trip I am going to Argentina for the last two weeks of July and the first week of August."
Rodrigo can be reached at email@example.com.