John Purtteman’s soccer career appeared to be over after he graduated from high school in Arlington in Snohomish County.
A coach at Everett Community College told him not to bother turning out.
“He told me I wasn’t good enough,” Purtteman said.
But 29 years later, Purtteman, with 13 national championships as a player and coach behind him, will be inducted into the Washington State Soccer Association Hall of Fame on May 9.
“I think persistence is my biggest hallmark,” Purtteman said. “Just loving the game and continuing to play. I didn’t want to give it up.”
Rather than quit, Purtteman, who describes himself as a “determined late bloomer,” began his long soccer odyssey at The Evergreen State College, making the team as a center midfielder as a freshman after playing goalkeeper throughout high school. He scored a team-high 12 goals in his each of his first two seasons.
By the time he was 24 and out of college, Purtteman made the state’s select team after getting cut several times. When he finally made the team, he started ahead of players from Seattle Pacific and the University of Washington.
“I just continued to progress,” he said. “I think one of the things that helped me was I never had a goal to play professional soccer. I just wanted to see how good I could be. I was happy to accept the next challenge.”
At age 30, Purtteman was drafted to play in the Continental Indoor Soccer League and played two years in Portland and Seattle. He won a national championship with the Seattle SeaDogs.
“In high school, I was pretty much the uncoordinated kid who worked really hard but was in the back of the pack,” Purtteman said. “I was a late bloomer.”
Purtteman won his first national championship with the Washington select U-23 team in the late 1980s. He then won national championships with some Seattle indoor teams, over-30 teams and over-40 teams.
He won 13 nationals championships on seven teams. At age 46, Purtteman’s emphasis is now on coaching, not playing. He’s the head women’s and men’s coach at Evergreen, and he coaches for the South Sound FC.
“John has a passion for the game,” said Dan Martinez, president of South Sound FC. “When he looks at players, he looks more at their heart than their athletic skill. That’s where he came from.”
Purtteman became head coach at South Puget Sound Community College in 2001, turning a perennial loser into a winner.
The Clippers went 10-59-6 in the four seasons prior to Purtteman’s arrival. In his first season at SPSCC, the Clippers finished 10-7-3 for only their second winning season in school history. The Clippers reached the playoffs for the first time in Purtteman’s third season.
In 2006, Purtteman returned to The Evergreen State College to coach the Geoducks.
Despite his success as a coach and a player, he’s still open to suggestions.
“In working with John, it’s not like it’s, ‘My way or you’re out of here,’ ” Martinez said. “He’s very cooperative. One of his philosophies is he’s never done learning. That’s the philosophy we take.”
Now Purtteman, once the skinny goalkeeper who overcame asthma and a coach’s denial, will join a fraternity that includes Jimmy Gabriel and Alan Hinton by being inducted in the Washington State Soccer Association Hall of Fame.
Gabriel, a native of Scotland who played for the Scottish national team, also played and coached for the Seattle Sounders in the 1970s and ’90s.
Hinton, a native of England, coached the Sounders and Tacoma Stars in the 1980s and ’90s.
“I’m absolutely humbled,” Purtteman said. “There’s some great people who have done a lot for the game. Guys like Jimmy Gabriel and Alan Hinton. Big names in the game. Guys I’ve really respected. To be included in a group like that is humbling. I never expected it.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443