Childhood in Lima, Peru gives former Warner Pacific, Chemeketa coach a fresh perspective on the game

by: JOHN HOWARD - Oscar Monteblanco, St. Helens boys soccer coachOscar Monteblanco is no stranger to the soccer pitch. In fact, he’s been coaching for longer than any of his players have been alive, ever since he was fifteen years old. At that time, the game looked a little different for Monteblanco. In his home town of Lima, Peru, soccer was on center stage.

“For us, soccer is the closest thing that comes to religion. It’s just what we do,” said Monteblanco. “I was fortunate to get involved with the sport at a very early age. It was something that came very naturally to me.

Without the choices of football, basketball and baseball that vie for the attention of young American sports enthusiasts, soccer was about the only option.

“It was soccer or go fly a kite, I guess,” laughed Monteblanco.

Without much of a structure, coaches or a grass pitch, Monteblanco learned the sport by playing in the street. The lack of adult figures to teach and the absence of pressure to perform a certain way made it more fun.

“It was more the game itself teaching us,” said Monteblanco. “That really stuck with me.”

Monteblanco moved to the United States after finishing high school in Peru, and played at Portland Community College before getting involved with coaching at several clubs in the Portland area, coaching at the lower level. In 1994, Monteblanco finally landed his first soccer job - the head girls coach at Molalla High School.

“I discovered how much I enjoyed it. It was about much more than the game itself, it was about being a mentor,” said Monteblanco. “There’s so much that relates to our life in regards to working together as a unit. Then it became clear to me that this was something I wanted to do as long as I could.”

Monteblanco spent four years at Molalla, making three state playoff appearances before moving to North Marion and taking his team to the state playoffs in three more years. One of the biggest highlights of his high school career was after his move to Valley Catholic. In 2007, Monteblanco guided the Knights to the state semifinal game, and was chosen as the 4A coach of the year.

Monteblanco’s experience hasn’t been limited to high school. In 2008, Chemeketa Community College in Salem, assigned Monteblanco the task of building a soccer program from the ground up. After struggling the first season, he led the Storm to a 19-1-1 finish and an appearance in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges Final Four in their second campaign. That’s when a position at NAIA program Warner Pacific College opened up, a job that Monteblanco took for three seasons before making the move to St. Helens.

“Soccer has been good to me, not just because of wins and losses, but because I have been able to create this network of college [athletes] and kids that I have coached for so many years from the time they were ten to when they went through college. I’ve had a great opportunity to watch them grow, and even today I stay in contact with them.”

In addition to Monteblanco’s high school and college coaching positions, he has also worked with the Olympic Development Program and has coached with many different clubs across the greater Portland area.

“I’ve been very blessed in regards to having an opportunity to do this and make a living out of it,” said Monteblanco, “but the relationship with my players is what I enjoy the most.”

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