SHHS alum Ramiro Santana takes reins in girls soccer

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

After six seasons as a Boys and Girls Club and junior high team soccer coach, Ramiro Santana gets a new challenge: the Sweet Home High School girls soccer team.

Santana, 43, has been named to coach the squad, which has suffered hard times throughout its existence as part of the high school sports program.

Santana says he plans to change that, perhaps not overnight, but as soon as he can build a program.

“I see that Sweet Home has never really ever had a winning season,” he said. “They’ve lost most, if not all, of their games (each season). This year I’m planning to take that off of Sweet Home. It’s time to start to win.”

He brings a lifetime of experience in the game to the pitch. Santana was born in Mexico but moved to Lebanon, and then to Sweet Home to live with his uncle and aunt, Mario and Rosa Santana, who had been here “since the’50s or’60s. He said he picked high school over an opportunity to try out for major league professional soccer in Mexico.

When he got to Sweet Home in 1981, as a junior in high school, there was no soccer program, so Santana played football and ran track. He also played soccer, but as a member of an Oregon League club team in Salem, for which he played forward.

“I’ve been playing since then until last year,” he said.

He graduated from Swee t Home High School in 1983, married Melissa Bernard, another Sweet Home alum, and they had three children, Ramiro, 17; Vianney, 15; and Alex, 14.

He currently works as graveyard shift manager for Safeway, which allows him to be free during the afternoons to coach.

Santana started coaching Boys and Girls Club teams six years ago, and in the fall of 2005, with the help of Keith Winslow, he formed a junior high boys team that went undefeated against other area junior highs, he said. Last year’s team, which played a Boys and Girls Club schedule, also ran the table.

“We never had competition,” he said, noting that he likes plans to send this year’s junior high teams to Eugene to play against age-group teams there.

He said he has 25 girls signed up to play for the high school and several more who may join the team.

“This will be a very young group for the first couple of years, but in three years we should see a change,” he said.

Santana says he believes soccer needs to be fun and his approach to the game reflects that.

“I think we need to play more offensively than defensively,” he said. “We’ve been playing defense too much.

“I let them play more freely in the field. I normally select girls who have the best conditioning to do more running, to play all over the field.”

Santana says he plans to start informal workouts for his team in July, at least two a week, and he said he needs to determine whom he has to work with before he makes decisions on how the Huskies are going to play.

“In July it will be up to the girls,” he said.

“He’s one of our previous students I’m exceptionally proud of,” said departing Athletic Director Larry Johnson, referring to Santana’s roles as parent, community member and coach.

Johnson said Santana has a vast amount of soccer knowledge and has coached from the Boys and Girls Club level and up with some of the athletes on his new team.

“These young ladies were excited to have him,” Johnson said. “Talk about a role model for kids. I would say he is without a doubt another one of those people on our coaching staff.”