Submitted by senior and Varsity player Mark Ortiz
“It was great. It’s a great event. There’s a lot of past hall of fame inductees that [were] there and it’s always nice to be there when the new classes [are] inducted and you know, how often do you get to meet a Super Bowl Champion? Breno, [it was] good time. The mayor was there, there were other politicians there, and it’s more of a meet-and-greet type thing and there [were] some speeches; Mark Ortiz read his scholarship-winning essay. I really appreciate the essay Mark wrote and I thought it was really nice of him and it was really special to be there with him and his family; he won the scholarship and it’s always nice to be recognized for something like that. I thought he was gonna kinda roast me a little bit [in the essay] and he was really nice; it was really nicely written.” - Coach Smith
The greatest decision I have ever made was to play soccer at the high school level. I started off playing Malden youth as a goal keeper but I thought that was as far as I would go. My friends finally persuaded me to join the team. I didn’t expect anything more than to be on JV. I ended up on the JV team, and I was perfectly fine with that. Then halfway through the season, the varsity coach, Mr. Smith came to watch us play a couple of times. My coach told me that he was there to watch me play, but to not be nervous, and I wasn’t.
He watched me play a couple of times so I just got used to it. Then during one of my practices, he set me aside for the first time. He asked me if I would come up to play a game or two on varsity for him. Out of respect I said yes. I was scared out of my mind first stepping off of that bus with the varsity team. I was a big freshman, but they were even bigger juniors and seniors. Coach Smith set me aside, right before walking on the field to start the game. He asked me how I’m feeling and without hesitation I said nervous. He told me not to worry about it. He said I should play just like I play every other game and that if I messed up, my teammates where there to help me. I’ve always been committed when I start something. However this was when my passion for the game actually began.
I played as good as a nervous freshman could play for those couple of games. The next year I returned to tryout again. I didn’t know why but I loved the feeling of playing on that team. While trying out, Coach Smith kept pushing harder and harder. He told me that if I wanted to make the team I had to push as hard as I could and then some. I’ll never forget how tired I was at the end of those first three days. But the hard work pulled off. I was called up to varsity and I was the only starting sophomore. This just put ten times more pressure on me.
Coach Smith found every way possible to avoid barriers between the upper classman and the lower classman on the team. With what he taught me, I actually felt that I could play correctly rather than playing like how my instincts told me to play. Even after countless errors on the field, from fumbling the ball to not coming out and causing goals, he found drills that could help me. I even remember rebounding easy balls from free kicks multiple times, giving the other team easy balls to score off of. Coach Smith found a drill for the team on how to build around those scenarios.
The next year couldn’t have been better. The pressure of playing with older kids was gone. I surpassed most of the players in our league in size. Coach Smith now knew I had no excuse to be nervous. He wasn’t taking any lazy mistakes or anything less than full effort. He made that obvious to me when he told me there are no guaranteed spots. Of course I used this as motivation because who the hell wants to lose their starting position on the field?
During that season I learned to trust Mr. Smith, not just as a coach, but as a mentor. He constantly found ways to make me motivated without me even realizing it. But I knew I could trust him. Even beginning this year’s season he told me once again, there are no guaranteed spots. Seeing I had competition, I kicked up my effort once again to full drive. Not only am I motivated on the field, but in school as well. To this day Mr. Smith expects nothing less than the best from me. A simple thank you cannot express the gratitude I have for his inspiration over the years. Mr. Smith truly is my mentor.