Otto Orf’s Soccer and Life’s Journey

Otto Orf-My Soccer Journey and Life Lessons

53 Years old, former 21 year soccer professional.
17 years with Cleveland Crunch/Force. 3 Championships, 3 All-star selections.
7 years with US Mens National Futsal Team, 1996 CONCACAF Championship and FIFA World Cup, 2003 Gold Cup Champion.

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My journey in soccer began as unexpectedly as anyone could imagine. Having grown up in Buffalo, NY I played hockey goalkeeper growing up in addition to pitching on a little league baseball team. My dream however was to be a football quarterback. In the fall of my freshman year I showed up at the football tryouts, made the third string freshman team and never saw action, not even one play! Needless to say next year I was going to try something different. So I showed up the first day of my sophomore year at the soccer field. Never having played soccer, I stayed quiet when the coach asked, ” Who wants to play forward?”. A bunch of players walked his direction. Next he said, “Who wants to play defender?”. Another bunch of players gathered together. Next he asked, “Who plays halfback?”, I didn’t even know what that meant as a bunch of players gathered in this last group. The best part about that day was that I was the only person left standing and there was one position that had not been filled. “Do you want to play goalie?” he asked. This was the beginning of my soccer career.

I fell in love with the position and received the Most Improved Player award two years in row. My coach joked at our junior year team banquet, “Can you imagine how bad he was when he started?”. My senior year I was awarded the MVP of the team.
I went to the University of Buffalo for engineering and played baseball there too. I walked on to the soccer team and ended up playing for 2 years. In the summer of my junior year I rode my bicycle to a tryout for the local pro team the Buffalo Storm. I was not in top form but ran the 5+ miles with the team. As they all left in their cars the coach kept me and ran me through some goalkeeper drills. In the last exercise I ran to touch the ball, back-pedalled as he through the ball over my head and I dove to tip the ball over the bar. As I reached down to touch the third ball my legs completely cramped up, the coach came and in his broken English asked, “Did you made the run with the team? “Yes”, I answered. He looked over at my bicycle leaning against the tree and began laughing. He then placed my bike in the trunk of his car and drive me back to my dormitory. The next day I signed my first professional contract.
Not many people ever hear about how I got my start in soccer but I believe it was the strong work ethic my father instilled in me from the time I was young that allowed me to make it right from the start. I played the outdoor game all over the US and Canada and then the indoor game all across the country as well. I was a back-up and honed my skills at training every day until I was afforded the opportunity to start a game.
I was fortunate to play for a very long time indoor, outdoor and even futsal for our national team. I have helped my teams win 4 indoor, 2 outdoor championships, a CONCACAF title and an appearance at a FIFA Futsal World Cup.
If there are any lessons to be learned from my experience they are to play because you love to, compete with all of your being and never give up. I believe that for most of my career I was able to continue getting better and I continued to learn. This is something I emphasize to the players I coach all of the time. It is too easy to think you are good enough and become complacent. This is the curse of the very good player and it is what the very best players avoid.
Soccer has given me more than I could have ever imagined. I have coached and mentored tens of thousands of young athletes, many who have reached the college, professional and even national team ranks.
With the support of our soccer community, family and friends I have started the HandsOnSports Foundation which brings shoes, balls, equipment and facilities to underprivileged youth in NE Ohio and over 12 countries abroad.

I am so very thankful for the cultural exposure soccer has afforded me, getting to meet and interact with teammates and opponents from every corner of the planet, , every language, every color and every religion. I have made NE Ohio my home for the past 27 years, I met my wife Marty here and together we have our beautiful daughter Olivia.
As my playing days are most certainly over the game rolls on and my interests have moved almost exclusively to futsal. My hopes now are to help more young players achieve their goals and to reach heights as high or higher than I was able to. And maybe, if fortune has it, I’ll be a part of returning pro indoor soccer to Northeast Ohio in the form of professional futsal someday soon!
With a long, successful career in the past, Orf looks to futsal for the future of soccer in NE Ohio.


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