Family inspired Sanchez’s NIU soccer career

NIU goalie has spent his entire life around soccer


Milly Landa

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Martin Sanchez walks on the field during NIU’s match against the University of Illinois Chicago on Sept. 12 at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. (Milly Landa | Northern Star)

DeKALB –  NIU men’s soccer’s redshirt senior goalkeeper Martin Sanchez comes from a family of soccer players who influenced his decision to play soccer.

“I’ve played soccer my whole life, I didn’t play any other sports,” Sanchez said. “Looking back, I wish I could play other sports such as football or basketball, but just the way my family raised us, it’s just soccer, 24/7.”

Sanchez grew up in Quebrantadero Morelos, Mexico, where he lived until he was 5 years old. He said one of his greatest memories from his time in Mexico was celebrating Día de los Reyes Magos. When Sanchez’s father was living in the United States, he sent over gifts for Sanchez and his older sister.

“I remember my dad sent over a bike, and I couldn’t even ride it because the roads were bad at the time,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez and his family later left Mexico and moved to Bloomington, Minnesota.

“Bloomington was a great place to grow up and it’s a very rich soccer culture,” Sanchez said. “I played soccer almost every day after school.”

Before coming to NIU, Sanchez played in the US Soccer Development Academy for Minnesota Thunder Academy. He also played for the Bloomington Youth Soccer Club.

Sanchez said his experiences at the two organizations were great because they were steps to improved him as a player.

“They were big steps in my soccer career and helped me grow as a soccer player,” Sanchez said. ”The coaches were very supportive in what I was there to do.”

Martin’s skills are phenomenal. He’s had some big saves that have won us games.

— Senior defender Adrian Lara

He was recruited in 2018 by former NIU goalie coach Zac Brown. Brown watched Sanchez train in Minnesota and invited him to come to NIU’s winter soccer camp. NIU holds soccer camps in the winter and the summer.

Sanchez was nervous when he came to the training camps, but he got comfortable and made new friends. Overall he said he had fun.

Sanchez also enjoyed NIU head soccer coach Ryan Swan’s philosophy about how soccer is supposed to be played.

“Coach Swan was very supportive of my decision, whether I came here or not; and that played a big role in me coming here,” Sanchez said.

NIU redshirt senior goalkeeper Martin Sanchez runs with the ball after saving a shot during NIU’s 2-0 defeat by the University of Illinois Chicago Flames on Sept. 12. (Milly Landa)

Sanchez was also recruited by DePaul University, Creighton University and the University of Pittsburgh. He also had other offers from Division II and Division III schools around the Midwest.

Swan said he watched Sanchez play numerous times with his club team in Minnesota.

“He impressed us every time we saw him,” Swan said. “He was very dynamic and was a shot-stopper. He had a lot of things that we were looking for in a goalkeeper, someone to keep the ball out of the net; he’s very exceptional at that.”

“He’s always been loud and talking to people around him, but he showed the responsibility of what it means to be a leader of a team,” Swan said. “I think that speaks to his development as a man and a person.”

Senior defender, and Sanchez’s roomate, Adrian Lara said Sanchez is a supportive teammate.

“He’s a teammate that cares about the team before himself,” Lara said. “He’s always looking out for everyone, has everyone’s back. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve played with, personally.”

“Martin’s skills are phenomenal,” Lara said. “He’s had some big saves that have won us games.”

The goalie’s support system

Sanchez’s hobbies include playing video games such as “Call of Duty” and playing music on the ukulele. He’s trying to learn how to play the ukulele better and has written a couple of songs for fun.

Sanchez also enjoys spending time with friends and family. He described his family as loving and caring people.

“They’re shy at first, but once you come around more often they show much love,” Sanchez said.

He has two sisters, one younger and one older. His family has been very supportive of him. Whether it’s about soccer or school, Sanchez said they are there for him and he said he appreciates them so much.

Someone Sanchez looks up to is his mom. “She’s one of the hardest workers I know,” he said. “She’s a great role model for me when everything gets tough.”

Sanchez always goes to his mom and asks her questions. He looks up to her for her worth ethic and she pushes him to keep going when things get hard.

Sanchez said he never wanted to be a goalie. His dad was a goalie and many relatives from his dad’s side of the family were goalies as well.

“I remember my first soccer game ever my dad put me at goalie and I got killed in the first half,” Sanchez said. “I ran off the field crying, saying I never want to play goalie again.”

Sanchez played midfield for some time, but that changed when he was 11 years old. His team was in a semifinal game when their goalie got hurt. They eventually made it to the final but didn’t have a goalie, so Sanchez’s dad volunteered him for the position.

His team received numerous penalties that game, and he said he saved every penalty kick. After that game, Sanchez said he realized he was good at playing goalie and began to enjoy it.

Sanchez likes to watch different goalies and is inspired by their techniques. One of his favorite goalies to watch is Jordan Pickford from Everton F.C.

“I like his passion for the game,” Sanchez said. “He gives it 120% when he’s on the field.”

Onto the next

Sanchez graduated in Spring 2022 with a bachelors in leadership and management. Now, he is looking to get his master’s in digital marketing.

His major used to be business and administration, but he changed it to leadership and management because he wanted to grow his leadership skills, which he feels connects to soccer.

Sanchez’s mom and girlfriend each have a business. He wants to tie his old and new majors together so he can go back home after he finishes college and help them with their businesses.

The 2022 season was Sanchez’s last run with the Huskies as he will graduate again in December. He wants to set the best example for the guys after him.

“I hope they see the work ethic and leadership I left behind,” Sanchez said. “I hope they follow it and keep bringing success to NIU.”