From the mid-1990’s until now, the UNM Women’s Basketball team has been known as one of the powerhouse teams in the Mountain West Conference, and formerly in the Western Athletic Conference. But before that, the team had been on hiatus from 1987-1991.
For Ronica Martinez, M.D., the reformation of the UNM Women’s team in 1991 gave her an opportunity to fulfill the dream of not only herself, but a number of athletes who spend hours in the gym, or on the court. The chance to play Division One collegiate sports.
Martinez was on a student exchange at the University of Rhode Island when she was informed that the women’s basketball team would be reforming. While in Rhode Island, Martinez would watch the school’s women’s team prepare for games. And she realized she had a future with the UNM women’s team.
“(The University of Rhode Island) was a smaller school. While working out in the gym I used to see the women’s basketball team practicing. And when I saw them practice I thought, ‘I can play with these girls. If this is Division One basketball, I can play.’
“I knew they were bringing the UNM team back and I went to talk with the coach when I came back into town. She told me when tryouts were and I ended up making the team. They offered me a scholarship and I ended up starting that year.
“I have really good memories of my time at UNM. I remember what it was like to be introduced on The Pit floor, and to play at The Pit. I remember my last home game as a senior. I remember thinking, ‘I want to take this in,’ to see the whole crowd, everything. To take it all in one final time.”
Martinez’s future was in sports medicine, and she graduated from UNM with a degree in exercise technology, and later received her M.D. at the UNM Health Sciences Center. After spending time in California running her own sports medicine program, Martinez and her husband decided it was time to return to the place she called home, Albuquerque.
Now, Martinez divides her time between the university’s Department of Student Health and Counseling, and the UNM Athletics Training Room, where she can tap into her athletics background to provide support and advice to a new generation of UNM women’s athletes.
“(UNM) is my home. I was born and raised in Albuquerque. It’s nice to work with SHAC as well as the Athletic Department that I was a part of when I was a student. I have a little bit of insight, and it’s a great environment to be in. There’s a sense of familiarity, and it’s comfortable here. UNM’s a fun place to be. Everyone is so active, and they’re young at heart. It’s really great to be a part of the UNM community.”