CEDAR HILL, Texas – If soccer is Robert Vortriede’s passion, then coaching is his purpose.
“It’s a chess game moving at 20 mph with every piece moving at the same time,” he said. “It’s one big puzzle you have to figure out.”
But he has no professional background in the sport. Nor did he play in college or high school. Vordtriede's journey to the pitch is a unique one and it’s even more remarkable once you learn what preceded it.
“After high school, I wanted some bigger challenges so I switched from National Guard to active duty and that’s how I became an explosive ordnance disposal technician,” he said.
For two decades, Vordtriede served this country both domestically and internationally. He was deployed to Afghanistan on three separate tours as a member of the bomb squad, a job he takes a lot of pride in.
“I really liked the idea of helping people,” he said. “So, it was a job where I could go out and take care of these dangerous items and help the other soldiers out there on the battlefield.”
After his last tour in 2017, Vordtriede officially retired from the Army. His next calling wasn’t clear until he saw his 6-year-old son take the pitch for the first time.
“When he started playing, I went to his practices and thought maybe I could do a little bit better,” he said with a smile. “So, the very next season I volunteered to be a recreation coach for soccer.”
That coaching bug evolved to the club level then the high school level. Soon enough, Cedar Hill High School came calling.
“At first I was a little nervous because before we had a women’s coach so I knew it was going to be completely different,” said Cedar Hill senior captain Jada Mitchell. “Then at our first practice [Vordtriede] said he had a military background so we were like, ‘Uh-oh, these drills are going to be hard.’ But I think I grew a good connection with him.”
“We’ve been able to enhance our skills personally and as a team,” said Cedar Hill captain Alyssa Lyons. “We are now comfortable with each other. I think that was something that we were lacking at first.”
Vordtriede has also trained his players to remember perhaps the most important life lesson of all.
“To never give up,” said Cedar Hill senior captain Kalee Slider. “He always wants us to keep going and finish strong.”
So, whether it’s on the battlefield or the soccer field, Vordtriede's purpose is to make others around him better.
“What I loved most about being a first sergeant in the Army was taking care of people,” Vordtriede said proudly. “That’s what’s helped me develop as a head coach. I look at all these girls as my people.”