The Ballenas Whalers start every game like they’re already down by six.
Even when they’re ahead, the Whalers have kept this phrase deeply ingrained in their minds, forcing them to always play with urgency and desperation. It’s their mission off the bat to get those six points now.
It was former football coaches Joe and son Chris Martino who introduced this approach when they started football in the Parksville Qualicum Beach Community more than two decades ago. This pre-emptive strike that they refer to is highlighted in their new book, Down By Six.
Their latest publication is a follow-up to the first book the two authored, It Takes a Posse, which reflected on the history of football in Parksville Qualicum Beach and how the community collective rallied behind its creation.
The second book is more about the process and creation of a longstanding tradition that Ballenas Whalers football continues to sustain today. It features interviews with people who have had a part in creating the culture of football in the community.
“It’s the story of our unique approach to coaching together as father and son,” said Joe.
“As part of that story, readers learn the origins of Oceanside Youth Football and Ballenas Whalers football. Both programs are around the 25-year mark now, and it’s good to have their roots and early successes documented for posterity. Down By Six best answers the question of how we did it.”
“Down By Six is the book we set out to write when we began this process,” said Chris. “As we conducted interviews with those that have had a part in the program, we realized that we had some amazing stories that just had to be told on their own, which is how It Takes a Posse was born.”
The good work ethic, discipline, character, teamwork and many other positive values both coaches have embedded in the culture of football in the community were derived from their longtime involvement in football, as well as in their other athletic endeavours.
“Some were experiences we had in our sporting life,” said Chris. “Some were from great coaches we had played for. Some were from things we saw that could use improvement from what other coaches had done. Most importantly, none of it works without the players and community fully buying in and supporting what is being taught.”
“I think we’ve both been lucky,” said Joe. “Chris had the good fortune of experiencing championships as a player in his youth, and so did I. I’ve met many excellent athletes who never won a title. There is a difference in culture. We also had the good fortune of arriving in the San Francisco area just as Bill Walsh began with the 49ers and witnessed their success up close. So, you can’t help but draw a little from each experience. We took those things we thought we could apply to our situation.”
Because he grew up in a military family, Joe said, he was exposed to a different level of discipline which he has successfully applied through his life. And embedding the importance of discipline has helped Oceanside Football and the Ballenas Whalers earn accolades and success.
“The pursuit of perfection, for perfection’s sake, though, has never appealed to me,” said Joe.
“But the discipline required in pursuing perfection while striving for a goal… well, that’s exciting. As for work ethic? Nobody’s gonna work harder, longer, more determined. I think our athletes came to know this. And every team will tout teamwork as essential. In our approach, we endeavoured to transcend ‘team’ to ‘family.’ Where many teams profess ‘family,’ I like to think we succeeded in this.”
‘Down by Six’ is a slogan coined by Joe. It was geared towards motivating a group of athletes in their quest to win a provincial championship.
“If you’re going to become a champion, there can be no excuses for falling short,” said Joe. “So, I came up with the concept of approaching everything as though we were down by six and time was running out.”
When the Martinos started the Parksville Posse in 1998, players donned used jerseys, gears and helmets loaned from other football clubs. They had to be creative and they learned to accept what they have.
The Parksville Posse was a small team consisting mostly of first-time players. They still made their presence known in every game. And in their first year, the Posse made it to the Island final but lost to a more experienced team, the Colwood Warriors. In their second year, the Posse won the Island championship, upsetting powerhouse Nanaimo Lions in the final.
They advanced to B.C. championships and reached the final, besting the Vernon Magnum 28-7. They became the best in B.C. and it put Parksville on the map football map.
The success of the Posse eventually led to the creation of a football program at Ballenas Secondary School in 2000.
They went 4-4 in the first year but in their second year made it to the finals of the AA championships held at BC Place but lost to the Windsor Dukes. They avenged that loss the following year in 2003 to become the BC AA Secondary Schools champion.