By Peter Ash
When Kai Martin got his first look at the game of soccer, he instantly knew there was a connection.
“My dad played soccer and it just kinda ran in the family,” Martin said. “I was playing since I was five years old and ever since, it kinda [became] just what I [did].”
As a child, Martin practiced and worked at his craft whenever he got the opportunity to, which ultimately put him in the place he’s in today. While working on his studies and other aspects of life, Martin made sure to get enough reps in before he jumped into his first high-level league.
“I used to play for a team called Mooredale, and then it kind of broke up as the years passed. My friend [Rams midfielder Oliver Wales] played for Markham [Lightning] and they were in the OYSL, so he told me to come to a couple of practices…I ended up making the team and started my journey from there.”
The Ontario Youth Soccer League (OYSL), founded in 1993, is the highest level of youth competitive soccer in the province. Despite having to deal with a new level of talent and competition, the then-teenage defender made sure he wouldn’t be an afterthought.
“When I first got to Markham, [Oliver] told me they already had a full team, but if you wanna come you could prove yourself and get a starting position…after the first game, I was regular in the starting lineup and it kinda just flowed from there.”
Martin’s success with Markham gave him a lot of opportunities, including a spot in the 2018 Vaughan High Performance Showcase. After his solid showing in the tournament, the right back caught the eye of former Toronto FC (TFC) forward and TFC III (3rd division) head coach, Danny Dichio.
“I got a call from [Dichio], saying that he’d like me to come for a trial,” Martin explained. “I stayed there for a week, and then shortly after it was done, he asked me to be on the team.”
Martin’s humble demeanor and ability adapt to any task in front of him has been a key factor in his rise as a player. It also caught the eye of Rams head coach Filip Prostran, who’s been big on the defender since he first heard about him.
“Kai’s an interesting one, because Coach [Kasy Kiarash] was in charge of recruiting and he identified him and Oliver,” Prostran said. “We watched them play a couple of times…and then we got him to commit to Ryerson. It’s interesting because shortly after we got him, TFC discovered him.”
While he still thinks he has a long way to go, the first-year business management student is looking to make a heavy contribution in the middle of his growth for the Rams this season.
“I’m just trying to put a lot of work in for the team, not let anybody down,” Martin said while thinking about his team. “Be solid in my position and help the team as much as I can.”