Local the perfect direction for St. Helens boys' soccer coaching find

After nearly eight months of waiting, the St. Helens boys will finally have a head coach for their soccer program, and just in time: practices start next week.

   New St. Helens High School Athletics Director Matt Morgan said on Monday, Aug. 11 that the Lions would be piloted by one Bob Opperman, a local ‘retired gentleman,' according to Morgan.

The local angle, at the onset of things, is awesome. Morgan also mentioned Opperman's experience and his family's strong connection to soccer, but the first qualifying reason for Opperman's hiring, in Morgan's words, was local.

I'm all for it. The last several years have been what Morgan called an “influx” of out of town coaches who have stepped in for a short tenure and moved on. Former coach Oscar Monteblanco is one example. He was hired last summer, and as of January, decided not to return for a second year.

In Monteblanco's case, he was able to connect with the players, raise the level of interest in the sport and managed to get athletes to pursue participation in club soccer to boost their skill level. Monteblanco said he was leaving mainly because of his living situation in Hillsboro, but there were several reasons ruminating in the background, mainly the use of the varsity field and the quality of the facilities in the area.

He's a perfect example of why it's been difficult to get coaches to stick around, something that former Athletics Director Cyndy Miller echoed.

If you're not deeply invested in the area and things are difficult, when another opportunity shows up, you'll take it. I can't fault Monteblanco for that, but I can applaud Morgan for taking a local angle. It's worked in other places. Simon Date, the coach on the girls' side, is a shining example. He's here to stay, and when asked about possibly leaving the St. Helens girls program, was fairly straightforward when it came to his long-term plans with Columbia County athletes: he's two years into a 10-year project.

Taking a quick look up and down the coaching rosters at both St. Helens and Scappoose high schools, there's a similar story. Coaches that live here, have had kids here and are invested here tend to stay here.

It's a tribute to the tight-knit feeling that makes Columbia County stand out the way it does. There's a certain appreciation for the people who grew up in the area.

And because Opperman is local, I've got high hopes for what a dedicated individual can do to add some stability to the program. There's no wonder that a team like Scappoose football or St. Helens softball and volleyball have been so successful over the last several years: the coaches stick around. Over time, the kids down at the youth level know what to expect once they hit high school, and they're set up and ready to go once they enter the next level of competition.

Will we see a packed-full column of wins from Opperman? Maybe not, but that's not the expectation for this year. Let's get a program established and let the kids know that they'll see the same face in the coaching box for the next few seasons.

By John William Howard
Sports Editor
Office: 503-435-5287
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