2016-11-24 / Sports

Spencer, Therrian Look Back on St. Ignace Saints Football Coaching Careers

Spencer Concludes 30 Year Coaching Career


St. Ignace football assistant coach Les Therrian (right) and head coach Marty Spencer are both retiring at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Mr. Therrian’s long involvement with St. Ignace football began as a player in the late 1960s and early 1970s before he became a coach with the pee wee team in 1976. He and Mr. Spencer have coached together since 1987, and headed up the varsity since 1997, with both noting that their coaching styles worked perfectly together. The pair are pictured here at the beginning of a football practice in St. Ignace Tuesday, November 15. St. Ignace football assistant coach Les Therrian (right) and head coach Marty Spencer are both retiring at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Mr. Therrian’s long involvement with St. Ignace football began as a player in the late 1960s and early 1970s before he became a coach with the pee wee team in 1976. He and Mr. Spencer have coached together since 1987, and headed up the varsity since 1997, with both noting that their coaching styles worked perfectly together. The pair are pictured here at the beginning of a football practice in St. Ignace Tuesday, November 15. As he looks back on his coaching career, Marty Spencer has no regrets. He has coached the Saints varsity football team for the past 20 years and was the assistant coach for 10 years before that. He defines himself as an “old-school coach,” goading his players to unleash hidden potential. Now, he is retiring.

“I’m not sure that there is any more I can give,” he said, “I feel like it’s just time for me to go.”

For the past 30 years, he has stressed that his players try their hardest in any situation.

“Part of my philosophy is, if you work very, very hard, and are very consistent with what you do, and you do things the right way, then good things are going to happen to you,” Mr. Spencer said. “The other thing is, you have to be able to get your kids in the right positions to be successful, not only for the team but for themselves.”

Les Therrian has worked as an assistant coach with Mr. Spencer for three decades, and they will both retire this year. Mr. Therrian has a good rapport with Mr. Spencer. The Saints assistant coaches always had a say in how the team was run under Mr. Spencer.

“I really enjoyed working with him,” Mr. Therrian said. “The players really respected him.”

Mr. Therrian noted that young players always have their own way of doing things, but Mr. Spencer excelled at getting them to work together as a team. Mr. Therrian’s friendlier coaching style complemented Mr. Spencer’s more disciplinary one to help players learn and grow. Team practices were always very organized with Mr. Spencer’s regimented approach allotting time for everything the Saints would need and keeping precise track of how long they would be there. Mr. Therrian enjoyed the ritual-like approach Saints games had with everyone always assigned the same tasks to complete before home and away games. He always shook Mr. Spencer’s hand before the start of each game.

Mr. Spencer was one of the most winning coaches the Saints has had, and Mr. Therrian noted that there was a lot of work behind those victories. Coaching was almost a yearround activity for him as he ran voluntary training programs for players in winter months and ran seven-on-seven mock games against other teams in the summer. During the season he’d work to improve the team every day by looking at film, monitoring practices, and continually preparing for the next game.

“If you want a successful program, you need to follow the guideline he set,” Mr. Therrian said of Mr. Spencer. “Having someone involved with the school is a real plus.”

As the years have gone on, Mr. Spencer has noticed his athletes have reacted differently to his coaching method.

“If I was screaming and hollering like I did 30 years ago, we would not have a JV football team,” he said.

So he has changed his coaching style, to be tougher on the kids who are motivated by toughness and easier on kids who need other encouragement. Despite this, fewer students are choosing to be a part of the football team.

“To me it’s a little frightening,” Mr. Spencer said. “High school football doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to be.”

He believes parents may be guiding their children to other sports, owing to the well-publicized injury issues related to football. Coupled with the school’s declining enrollment, the team is struggling to fill its roster.

“Some of the guys from the past think we should play every big school there is and we should have 30 kids on the teams,” he said. “Those days are long gone.”

Mr. Spencer’s efforts to improve his players spread beyond the gridiron into the school through his work as the athletic director and physical education teacher. He started a physical fitness program at the school that helped benefit the performance of all the school’s athmoving letes across every sport and improve the health of non-athletes. He also helped arrange to move the school’s weight room so it would be more accessible.

“It makes a big difference,” Mr. Therrian said. “That fitness program is a big part of the success we’ve had over the last 20 years.”

Looking back on his career, Mr. Spencer said he is grateful for the opportunity to influence his players’ lives and be part of the St. Ignace community.

“We’ve been committed and we’ve done things the right way,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of time and energy into the program and good things have happened.”

A new coach will be selected at the end of the school year, from a pool of applicants that could include assistant coaches at LaSalle or candidates from outside the system.

In his retirement, Mr. Spencer said he looks forward to spending time with his family. His family supported his prior efforts as coach, his wife Angie Spencer ran St. Ignace’s concession stand during games.

Return to top

The most important aspect of

The most important aspect of winning AND success in any school endeavor, be it sports, music, even academics, is finding the unconditional best teacher/coach there is and keeping them around for 20 or 30 years. St. Ignace has done that with Spencer and Therrian. Will it be lucky enough to find and keep the next around for 2 or 3 decades? Congratulations and a huge Thank You is due to the retirees. Job well done. Ken Feneley, '54 Engadine High School, now in Clare

Click here for digital edition
2016-11-24 digital edition