Claremont — Justin Martin was a vigilant multi-sport competitor at Lebanon High, contributing mightily for the Raiders’ basketball and baseball teams before going on to a four-year baseball career at Colby-Sawyer College.
Now in his fifth year as the superintendent of recreation programs in Claremont, Martin has come to realize life’s not all about competition — especially when it comes to youth sports.
Among the many duties for Martin, 26, is recruiting coaches for the city’s youth sports activities. Finding those who match his holistic and inclusive philosophy is one of the more challenging aspects of that process.
“You find a lot of people who just want to win, and that’s really so far from what we’re about here,” said Martin, a West Lebanon native and 2008 Lebanon High graduate who works closely with Claremont recreation director Mark Brislin. “(Youth sports are) really about the child and developing life skills, skillsets like sportsmanship and team-building. I really could care less about what’s on the scoreboard. It’s about learning and, hopefully, having fun first and foremost. It took me a little while to realize that.”
The field of parks and recreation wasn’t previously on the radar for Martin, a sports management major at Colby-Sawyer who minored in business. He initially fancied being a sports agent and has long said being a high school or college athletic director would be his dream job.
For now, Martin’s post in Claremont will certainly do. He enjoys the everyday responsibilities in and around the 4-year-old Claremont Savings Bank Community Center, home to a 25-yard indoor pool, elevated track, basketball courts and numerous fitness and function rooms.
Getting people to fill those facilities — as well as events around Claremont, including Super Bowl Sunday’s Pigskin 5K — is Martin’s specialty.
“For team sports, it’s a lot of recruiting athletes, coaches and officials, then building the schedule,” Martin said. “Whenever there are schedule changes, you’ve got to make sure you keep people posted. It can seem like kind of a lot, but it’s been working out pretty well so far.”
Martin’s competitive side is still able to flourish in Claremont, where he’s an avid participant in the city’s popular men’s basketball and co-ed softball leagues.
In its third year, men’s basketball has grown to 10 teams from nine, and has about 90 total players, with games scheduled five nights per week. Martin’s team, the Dexters, is in second place with a record of 7-1.
Even Martin’s opponents are thankful he participates in the league.
“It’s huge, because he gets to see it first-hand, what the players are going through and ways the league can improve,” said Canaan resident Mark Knapp, whose team, Anything Goes, faced the Dexters on Thursday night. “He’s also aware of all the rules of the league, so he’s right there if there’s ever a question that comes up.”
Martin is finalizing rosters for the upcoming Twin Valley youth basketball tournament, which begins on Feb. 27.
“He’s very organized,” Knapp said. “He takes it upon himself to keep all of this going.”
It’s not only ball sports that Martin oversees. He’s behind the scenes for the city’s many endurance events and road races, from the Reach the Peak challenge adventure race, every summer at Arrowhead Recreation Area, to this weekend’s Pigskin 5K, which takes place every Super Bowl Sunday.
“I end up being sort of the director for those events, but it’s a lot more than just me,” Martin said. “There are teams of really dedicated volunteers and a lot of them come back every year. They’re truly the unsung heroes of what we do.”
Martin also has developed a passion for hunting, beginning during his college days residing in Grantham. Shooting with both bow and rifle, his biggest kill was a 9-point white tail deer in 2011, weighing 175 pounds. He had another successful white tail season last autumn.
“I got two six-pointers with a bow and an 8-pointer with my rifle,” said Martin, who also hunts turkey and bear and has applied for New Hampshire’s moose lottery.
“I really enjoy not only the challenge, but the adrenaline involved. I recommend that people at least try it. If you think there’s a lot of adrenaline when you’re at the free-throw line with the game on the line, try being up in a tree and having the opportunity (to shoot a deer). It’s really like nothing else.”
Martin is looking forward to Sunday’s Pigskin 5K, which benefits the recreation department. Registration is from 8-11 a.m. at the Community Center ($20; $10 kids 12 and under), with a free kids fun run scheduled for 10:30.
“It’s always a good time. This year we’ve got Tom Brady jerseys for the men’s and women’s winners,” Martin said. “It’s great way to kickoff Super Bowl Sunday. We’re hoping for a good turnout.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3225.
Lebanon High School and Colby-Sawyer College graduate Justin Martin is the superintendent of recreation programs for the Claremont Parks and Recreation Department. An earlier headline with this story incorrectly identified his job with the department.