By John Philip Wyllie
Despite playing only one year of high school soccer, former Southwest High School soccer star, Rene Ortiz, produced enough goals in 1987 to become the Metro League’s seventh All-Time leading scorer. That rare nose for the goal did not go unnoticed. Ortiz was drafted by San Diego Sockers following that sensational ’87 season and went on to enjoy a long and successful career playing in several professional indoor leagues and the outdoor MLS.
When his playing career finally ended at the conclusion of the 2001 season, Ortiz decided it was time to go back to school. At present, he is just a few weeks away from completing his teaching credential in Physical Education, but his love for soccer has never waned.
Ortiz never really left the game. In recent years, he coached on both sides of the border whenever time permitted and in 2002 he led Marian Catholic to a CIF championship. He wisely stayed connected to the soccer community while training to be a teacher and that continued involvement paid off for him recently.
“Over the years I have met a lot of people from the Mexican (Soccer) Federation and recently I was named the head coach of the Mexican Indoor Soccer League. Soon we will begin preparing ourselves for our first international match. We’ll play the MISL All-Stars on February 11 in Milwaukee. It will be fun to coach against my old league and against my old coach, Keith Tozer,” Ortiz said.
“I really enjoy teaching, but my passion has always been toward coaching,” Ortiz said. He is not sure which path he will pursue at this point, but he likes having several options.
“I think I am on the right track with the (Mexican) Federation, but we haven’t finalized the contract that I wanted. If that works out, I will be there,” Ortiz said. He sees it as too good of an opportunity to pass up. “Not only would I be coaching all of the indoor teams from Mexico, but I would be in charge of the coach’s education program for indoor soccer in Mexico. I’d be traveling throughout Mexico’s states and hosting seminars on indoor coaching.”
As excited as he is about the recent developments in Mexico, Ortiz is wisely not putting all his eggs in one basket. He has seen soccer teams and leagues come and go and he knows that there is little security in the sport that he loves.
“MLS has done a good job even though they are still struggling. They have at least been around for ten years now and things look promising,” Ortiz said. Indoor soccer has been much more unstable.
“Every year we have new teams and new leagues that come with a mentality and attitude that this is going to be the league that will prevail and push (indoor) soccer to the next level. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but (indoor soccer) has a strong fan base on the east coast and it has been played there (in various leagues) for maybe 20 years. I started my career playing indoor soccer and maybe that is where I will end up.”
If things don’t work out for him while following his dream in soccer, Ortiz knows that he can support his wife and child training the soccer players of tomorrow in the much less glamorous, but stable career of a teacher.