Centennial High School's new girls varsity soccer coach is a self-described soccer fanatic.

Ricardo Pizarro Sr. has played soccer during a storm that dropped 6 inches of snow before the game ended.

He says he played in games at Patterson Park in the 1950s that were so rough he was lucky to walk away in one piece.

Pizarro even played against Baltimore Orioles coach Cal Ripken Sr., whom he described as one of the roughest players he faced.

It would be difficult to find anyone with a broader soccer background than Pizarro.

The 63-year-old Catonsville resident has coached at the amateur, high school, college and professional levels for most of the past 41 years.

He played the sport until he was 34 years old, including two years of varsity at Springfield College in Massachusetts. After college he spread his playing time among a variety of amateur teams, most of them in the Baltimore area. One team he played on, the Parkville Soccer Club, won the prestigious Rowland Cup in 1953.

He refereed soccer for 25 years, including 10 years at the college level from 1964-74. The U.S. Air Force hired him to teach and coach at a high school in Germany for three years, from 1956-58.

Pizarro is proud that he was the first native American to attend the English Football Seniors Coaching School in 1959. He also taught at the first American soccer sports camp, the International Soccer Camp, conducted in Honesdale, Pa., in 1961.

Since then he has taught at 16 soccer clinics. His six-month pro coaching stint came in 1969 for St. Gerard's of the American Soccer League.

"I guess they thought I wasn't doing a good enough job so they fired me," said Pizarro. "You know how that goes."

Hissoccer experience even extends to the airwaves -- he worked during 1972 and 1973 as a radio commentator for the Balti

more Bays pro soccer team.

In Pizarro's opinion, Howard County plays the strongestsoccer in the Baltimore area. This will be his second coaching assignment here -- he coached the junior varsity at Hammond in 1988.

Centennial returns most of its team from last year and should be a contender for a county title this year.

Pizarro, the father of five children, grew up in a well-to-do neighborhood in Mount Vernon, N.Y., but became attracted to soccer, then considered a working-man's sport,at Springfield College.

While doing graduate work at Springfield,he coached his first team at Cathedral High School.

"Kids there had never seen a soccer ball," Pizarro said. "But by the time I left they knew what it was all about."

He went from there to Baltimore, where he played five years for local amateur teams.

In 1956 he went to Germany, where his team won 80 percent of

its games over three years. In 1958 the team won a high school championship in an eight-team league made up of Americans.

Pizarro also played for the German Police Club while he was in Germany.

"I was sort of a goodwill ambassador trying to stimulate German-American friendship after WorldWar II," Pizarro said.

He returned to Baltimore in 1960 to teach physical education at Johnnycake Junior High School.

When WoodlawnHigh School opened the next year, he became its varsity soccer coach, holding that position until 1984, when he retired from the Baltimore County school system.

While at Woodlawn, he had mixed results.

In 1969 and 1970 his teams lost only one game. In 1976 and 1977 histeams made the state tournament but never got beyond the semifinals.

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