For coach Jimmi Ulloa, soccer is lifelong journey
It can be funny how things work out. In one moment, you can be playing pick-up soccer with your friends in the neighborhood. Following that same love for the game, you can be a coach and trainer for the youth academy of a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.
At least, that's what you have already done if your name is Jimmi Ulloa. The goalkeeper trainer for the Wilsonville Wildcats boys' soccer team, who also coaches privately and trains at the Portland Timbers Academy, had humble beginnings.
Ulloa was born in the Nayarit, Mexico, a small state between Jalisco and Sinaloa. There he would play soccer with his friends and, in an eerie precursor to his coaching work, play goalkeeper. With little funding, Ulloa had to innovate when playing against his friends.
"I remember back in town, in the neighborhood, you didn't have money," Ulloa said. "We played in the street, and I didn't have any gloves. I just put my shoes on my hands, and we played with a flat ball. Here, I'm surprised to see all these kids and everything. It's a different world and everything."
After immigrating into the states with his family and then coming to Oregon in 1995, Ulloa began coaching for the first time in 2004. After getting a position with club Willamette United, Ulloa would go on to coach for Westside Metros and Forest Grove High School, before landing his current positions at the Timbers Academy and Wilsonville High School.
Now living in Aurora, Ulloa works in Tualatin. He has had two sons, Carlos and Angel, play varsity soccer for the Wilsonville boys' team (the latter of whom still has one more year to play).
Ulloa continues to coach because, simply put, he really enjoys it. If there are kids who want to learn to be better goalkeepers, he will be there to train them up.
"I've never done the coaching for the money, it's more for the fun," Ulloa said. "When you work with the teams, you identify yourself. I can go and scrimmage with these kids because they respect me, and I'm not going to go and hurt them. I'm going to go let them play. While they play, I'll coach along the way. At the end of the day, if they learn and have fun, that's what it's all about. Soccer should be fun."
With Wilsonville's boys team bowing out of the playoffs after a 1-0 loss to Central, Ulloa plans on taking a break from coaching, but only for a little bit. After the 17-game season, he's heading back to Mexico to visit family but will return to coaching afterwards.
"I haven't been there for a while, but I have plans to go and see my parents and brother that I haven't seen in a few years," Ulloa said. "I'm really excited to go and take a break after the high school season is over. Thanksgiving week, I'll take some time and spend some time with my family."
Despite fielding offers from multiple schools and clubs and being recognized for his work as an assistant coach (in 2017 he was named the Timbers ODP Boys Coach of the Year), Ulloa plans to continue to coaching at Wilsonville High and the Timbers Academy.