Cadet experience inspired Fishburne football coach

martin goodnough
Martin Goodnough. Photo courtesy Fishburne Military School.

Martin Goodnough knew he wanted to be a football coach when he caught himself doodling plays in government class his senior year at Fishburne Military School.

“God bless my government teacher for tolerating that,” said Goodnough, who is back at his alma mater as the chair of the English department and as head football coach.

Goodnough was inspired to wanting to coach by former FMS football coach Val Gochenour, who he praised as a solid x’s and o’s teacher with a more “cerebral approach” to the game.

Goodnough, a 2009 Fishburne alum, said he had already come to the conclusion that he probably wasn’t going to play in college, but the love of the game planted in him at FMS made him start thinking that “maybe one day, I could be a coach. That kind of stuck with me,” he said.

After graduating from Emory & Henry with a degree in English, he returned to Fishburne as a teacher, and volunteered for a position on the staff of head coach Rich Chiarolanzio.

“I learned a lot, mostly of what not to do. I made rookie coaching mistakes and that sort of thing. But Coach C gave me the leeway to make those mistakes and learn from them,” Goodnough said.

He then served on the staffs of a pair of well-respected local high school coaches who took the reins at FMS, Chip Hill and Tom Goforth, before assuming the mantle as head coach in 2019.

He maintains contact with his mentors, running ideas by them on schemes, plays, management.

“I’ve been really blessed to coach for some really great guys. And I think I’ve got a pretty decent coaching staff here, and I’m still learning,” Goodnough said. “A lot of times, they’ll show me a technique or something. I’m like, dang, I never thought about that. And so, yeah, I just feel like I’m really blessed to be a head coach. And, you know, if God gave me a vocation, it’s coaching football.”

Goodnough can relate better to the student-athletes as a Fishburne alum.

“I value my ability to connect with the kids,” he said. “I’ve had that experience. I sort of what they’re going through. I don’t really believe in the idea that I know exactly what they’re going through, because they’re a completely different generation, and they have so many different distractions and things that they’re dealing with, and that sort of thing. But I think I have an easier route to kind of connect with them and say, Hey, I remember having to drill on a Wednesday, and then having to run to practice to get there on time. You’d have six classes a day, you’re standing in formation for an hour, and now you’ve got football practice, and you’ve got a test tomorrow, and I get that.”

His wife may think he sometimes goes overboard in connecting with his kids.

“The big thing for me, and I tell the kids this all the time, I’ll never have them do something that I haven’t done myself or wouldn’t do myself. And sometimes I get myself in a little bit of trouble. I’ll go out there and play a scout team and try to give them a good look, and I get home and my wife sees all these bruises. And she’s like, what the heck are you doing?” Goodnough said.

The Caissons open their 2021 season Friday at home with St. Micheal’s the Archangel Catholic School. The game will be the first in almost two years after the 2020 season was scuttled due to COVID-19.

“We’ve got some things to clean up on. I think we can get that done this week,” Goodnough said. “I think the season looks, you know, great for us. I think we stack well against pretty much everybody in our schedule. I’m looking forward to great things. It’s just cleaning up some of the little things.”

Story by Chris Graham


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