Whiting reflects on path from student-athlete to grad assistant to head coach

The women’s soccer team is arguably one of Tufts’ most successful teams. In 2000, it went to the Div. III National Championship, and in 2005, it competed in the national semifinals before losing to the College of New Jersey — the same team that had defeated them five years earlier. The 2005 team featured completely new faces on the field, but on the sidelines, the woman behind much of their success remained the same: head coach Martha Whiting.

Whiting has been the coach of the Tufts women’s soccer team for 17 consecutive seasons, compiling a 152-78-29 (wins, losses, ties) overall record, good for a .643 winning percentage. In her 16 full seasons as head coach, only one of her teams finished with a losing record. Her teams have qualified for the NESCAC championship tournament 14 times out of a possible 15 years, won the conference championship in 2002 and finished runners-up in 2000 and 2005.

Whiting has also won numerous individual accolades. In 2000, she won the award for National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Div. III National Coach of the Year and was named NESCAC’s Coach of the Year in 2002, 2005 and 2010.

Whiting’s rise to the head coach position on the women’s soccer team began while attending graduate school at Tufts. She became an assistant coach under former Athletics Director Bill Gehling, and when Gehling was promoted to the Athletic Director position in 1999, Whiting was promoted to head coach. 

At the helm of the women’s soccer program, Whiting’s approach has been to prioritize personal relationships with her players and to tailor her coaching style to each one.

“I believe that the biggest thing for me is to get to know my players on a personal level … [to] learn what their majors and who their friends are,” Whiting said. “I feel that when you get to genuinely know your players on a personal level and care about [them], they’re much more likely to do what you ask them to do and be happy about doing what you ask them to do.”

Whiting’s emphasis on building relationships and mutual respect with players was echoed by former co-captain and three-time NSCAA All-Region selection Catharine Greer (A’15).

“I enjoyed every minute that I played for coach Whiting,” Greer said. “Win or lose, she never lost sight of why we all play the game: to have fun. Coach Whiting has had a large impact on my life…and my experience as a college athlete wouldn’t have been the same without her.”

Whiting’s in-depth understanding of Tufts student-athletes stems from her own experience playing for Tufts; she was a four-year starting goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, under then-coach Gehling.

“Honestly, it was the last school I looked at [as an undergraduate],” Whiting said. “I had grown up not even ten miles from here and had honestly never been here in my entire life until I was 17 years old … I literally fell in love with the place; it was a beautiful October fall day, and I loved the campus. I went back to my mom’s car and said, ‘I love this place I need to go here.’”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Whiting made the decision to go to graduate school at Tufts, where she worked for athletics as a graduate assistant. 

“I was not 100 percent sure what I wanted to do with my life, and I just loved coaching…just being around the game,” Whiting said. “I was fortunate enough to do it at Tufts. I love being around the girls — they were awesome, still are awesome. I got the coach’s bug, so to speak.”  

When asked to describe her own coaching style, Whiting spoke about the importance of setting high expectations for the team. 

“I like to set the bar high and hold the girls to a high standard,” Whiting said. “They’re all Tufts students, so they’re all overachievers. We’ve been chasing .500 all year, and I just know we are a better team than that. I see us play on a consistent basis,” she said. 

After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at Tufts, Whiting is one of the few Jumbos that never left — and she does not see herself doing so in the near future.

“I’ve never really considered moving on,” Whiting said. “This place feels like home to me … Tufts is just a place where I get to coach amazing girls and really have the opportunity to be successful any given year. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to continue in this profession at this school, a place I love so dearly. There’s just something special about being able to be a part of the Tufts women’s soccer program.”