By Amy Snider - May 18, 2018
“Memoirs of a Soccer Vagabond”
Author: Ronald P. Maierhofer
Publisher: Sports Club Management
5722 Whistling Duck Drive
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Reviewer: Len Oliver
May 10, 2018
Most books on our sport of soccer are in the “How To” category. We seldom find a treatise of one man’s journey over time as a player, coach, trainer of coaches, and soccer club owner—a “soccer vagabond” as he calls it. Ron Maierhofer, a good friend, has led
just such a life, and has now written about his own “soccer journey.” If you are interested in soccer history and one man’s journey, this is a great read.
Maierhofer, a first-generation American with German immigrant parents, asks early on: “Have you had dreams of playing for your country?” He did and his memoir covers the period from 1942-2018. He followed a first-generation American’s dream about playing for the U.S. National Soccer Team when he made the U.S. National Team which played in the 1959 Pan-American games in Chicago, winning a bronze medal. With a Scottish father, I experienced the same feeling on hearing our National Anthem and wearing “USA” on my chest during the 1963 Pan -American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Along the way, Maierhofer played soccer in 19 states and 42 cities as an amateur and then as a professional. Once his playing days were over, Maierhofer turned to coaching teams in six states, and founded soccer businesses that played across 14 states. He then became owner of the Denver Avalanche in the Major Indoor Soccer League, and the book describes the inner workings of a sports franchise—how to organize the operation, recruit staff, manage the market for a pro soccer team, or as Maierhofer puts it: “how to market the dream.”
Maierhofer’s book should appeal to players, sports marketers and educators, would-be pro soccer team owners, and sports entrepreneurs in every sport. The book illustrates what your dreams in sports can lead to. As Maierhofer puts it, “I have strived to achieve my soccer dream,… Telling my soccer story is one of my dreams, a story of a working man’s lifetime in soccer.” He has done this, perhaps encouraging other soccer personalities along the way to write their own histories.
Maierhofer has four sons—Scott, Jeff, Tim, and Craig—all of whom played soccer at some time in their careers. He has eight kids in all, with 19 grandchildren.
Telling His Story
The Buffalo Experience.--Maierhofer’s German immigrant parents settled in Buffalo in 1926.
Since soccer had flourished in the Buffalo ethnic communities since 1910, Maierhofer was attracted to our game in his younger years in the early 1940s. For him, “soccer was an everyday event in our family.” For our immigrant population, as it was in Philadelphia and other urban areas, ethnic clubs sponsored soccer teams—from adults to youth teams, with little coaching where we learned the game by example, in ”street soccer,” where we focused on team play.
Military Service and Cornell.--Maierhofer has an excellent memory for names, teams, places, and especially for coaches who influenced his life. He traces his soccer history through high school, service in the 101st Airborne, and then a soccer scholarship to Cornell, later being named to the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. On his awards, Maierhofer admits that “all of the awards were due to my success at playing my sport. A first-generation blue collar, German-
American’s dream, achieved by working hard, perseverance, and luck.”
Moving On.--Maierhofer relocated to Los Angeles in 1963. By 1966, he had four sons, all eventually playing soccer. He continued playing with Maccabi in Los Angeles, then his profession of sales management took him to Dayton, Ohio in 1968 where he continued to play. By 1971, he found himself in Dallas becoming a player-coach for the Richardson-Sparta Soccer Club. As he points out. “Wherever my occupation took me, I was involved with soccer.”
Blessed with a good memory, Maierhofer cites teams he coached, personalities he met, and soccer exploits.
The Denver Experience
Maierhofer moved to Denver with his Information Handling Services work in 1976. By 1976, Maierhofer had attained his USSF “B” License, served as Director of Coaching for the
Colorado State Youth Soccer Association, created a bronze statue of Pele which he presented to the Brazilian in New York in 1978 when Pele starred for the New York Cosmos. and wrote his first book, ”No Money Down,” on his ownership of the Denver Avalanche from 1979-1983. As he admits, he had always wanted to own a pro soccer team, and the Avalanche fulfilled that dream, playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). As Maierhofer points out,
“I got enmeshed in the world of taxation and venture capitalism. Introducing a new product to new fans in a new city was an opportunistic challenge….We were not in the soccer business… but in the entertainment business.”
The experiment with indoor soccer worked, with the first home game held on November 19, 1980, attracting 8,705 fans. Maierhofer received great press for the team, which encouraged “a family market,” low ticket prices, a cheerleading team called the
“Snow Cats,” corporate sponsorship including Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Anheuser-Bush, and televised games by Denver’s CBS affiliate, KNGH-TV, one of the first soccer contracts with a national network. Maierhofer essentially brought “a marketing
philosophy” to soccer.
Continuing to Play and Coach
Maierhofer played on men’s adult teams wherever he went. He relocated to Springfield, Virginia in January, 1997 and played on an “Over 30” team in Alexandria. I know from experience that everyone has a history in these senior teams, with many mutual friends. That makes them more interesting.
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