By Doug Russell Special to Published Nov 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Keith Tozer has literally lived the entire history of indoor soccer in North America. In November 1978, Tozer was the first overall player selected in the first ever indoor soccer league, the MISL. Recently elected to the United Soccer Leagues Hall of Fame, Tozer, 54, led the Milwaukee Wave to their fifth league championship last season and have just begun their title defense. recently sat down with Tozer for a wide ranging discussion that touched on his past, the Wave's future, and how long he wants to continue coaching. This is what, you're 19th season here?

Keith Tozer: 20th, actually.

OMC: What is it about Milwaukee that this is where you decided to set roots down? I mean, you've lived and worked in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Hartford, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Kansas City...I don't think I missed any.

KT: Atlanta.

OMC: Yes. Atlanta. What is it about Milwaukee that makes it special to you?

KT: Yeah, I think that everybody who first comes here has a different impression of what Milwaukee is all about. That could come from television shows or movies or word of mouth. But I think that once they get here and find out what a great city it is; I mean we have so much to offer here, between sports, entertainment, culture, restaurants, things to do. You also don't have to kill yourself driving in order to do it. Then when people get here, they understand that. Then it's the people. People here are genuine, hard working, sports oriented. It kind of reminds me of Pittsburgh when I played there for five years. So it's been a great place to raise a family in.

OMC: It doesn't hurt that you've had a great deal of success here, too.

KT: That's true. But if it wasn't for the Wave would I still be here? I don't know. If something happened to me and the Wave got rid of me, would I still be here? I don't know. But, since I've had the ability to coach this team as long as I have, that kept me here too. So between everything involved here and also the franchise, that's why I stay.

OMC: By the way, congratulations on another championship.

KT: Yeah, it was a fun year. I know every team in any sport always has a team that they might respect a lot, but for whatever reason it's their rival. For us, that team has always been Baltimore. Both teams have now won five (championships) in the last 13 of 14 years. To lose to them for the third time would have been devastating. We would have had to wait all next year to get back to them. So to beat Baltimore; and to beat Baltimore in Baltimore kind of kept this train going.

OMC: You're got five rings now. How do you decide which one to wear?

KT: In the last five or six years, I started wearing the last one. You know, when you only have one, you obviously only wear that one. But when you get a couple more, you favor the one you like the most. But then I started saying there's no reason behind that either, other than just liking the ring, so I figured, 'you know what, I'm going to start wearing the last ring, and wear it until I get the next ring.'

OMC: Do you have a favorite championship team? Is there a way to choose one over another?

KT: It's a lot like picking children; you're first championship is your newborn; you didn't get the ultrasound, so you don't know if it's a boy or a girl, you didn't get the room painted; you didn't have the boys clothes or the girls clothes already picked out. The second and third and fourth, they were all great, too and they all had different stories on how we did it. Losing three or four (championships) in between also taught us a lot. I think beating Baltimore in Baltimore, numbers one and five has a lot of meaning to me, where two, three, and four do, but one and five definitely.

OMC: Speaking of kids, you're back to changing diapers at the age of 54 (Tozer and his wife, Kelli, welcomed daughter Grace in July, 2010). How is that treating you?

KT: Well, it definitely changed my lifestyle. Where you're used to work long hours at the office, you now have to get home a little bit earlier. I think it's easier in a lot of aspects for me, because while I did some good things I also made a lot of mistakes with my other children. So, even though its Kelli's first baby, I can add some of that experience with her and that helps a lot. I'm not so much going in a thousand different directions, even though I work hard, when I was young with my other children than I do with Gracie. So it's been great. It's great to come home and see her laughing and running around, and great to see my other children, too.

OMC: What's the biggest challenge of this job?

KT: Trying to make it work. Not the on-field stuff, but the off-the-field stuff. This franchise has been around for 28 years. It's had five ownership groups. My biggest disappointment; my biggest failure is that after all these years, after all these games, after all these championships, after all the camps, after all the appearances, after all the charity work; why we can't get 6,000 people per game, why we can't even get 9,000 people per game. I believe this city is 700,000 people with the surrounding suburbs. All we need is one percent to fill the building. One percent. And why we can't do that has been probably the most frustrating part of this whole thing for me.

OMC: What do you account for that? Does it speak to the popularity or sometimes lack thereof of soccer here in the U.S.? The outdoor game, as we are told all the time, is the world's most popular sport.

KT: I don't know. You've got the outdoor people who call themselves the purists. A lot of them won't come in and watch the indoor game. To me, that's frustrating because I'm the coach of the national U.S. futsal team (note: futsal is the worldwide version of indoor soccer. The main differences are a smaller ball, a hard court playing surface, and no dasher boards). I've just been invited by FIFA to a beach soccer seminar in Florida. Obviously I coach indoor, and I love the outdoor game. You can't tag me as an outdoor person. You can't tag me as an indoor person. If you are going to tag me, you're going to tag me as a soccer person. I will support all brands of soccer because it's all in the soccer family. So the people who call themselves the purists and say it's not 'The Beautiful Game' and it's not real, I don't get that. That's been kind of a challenge, to try to get those people to come inside. That would make up maybe 10-15 percent.

OMC: Does the fact that there are a lot of school groups at games hurt the local marketing effort?

KT: I think we've been tagged as a 'family sport' where four guys won't come out and have a few cocktails or won't bring a client out. But I go to Bucks games, and I see the same people there. It's not a big city. I go to a Brewers game, and I see families. So I don't know what the magical secret is. We're entertainment. Anyone who has ever been to a Wave game knows the players give 100 percent. Over the years, we have won about 85 percent of our home games. I think the entertainment around the arena is great. There's not a bad seat inside the stadium. The tickets are inexpensive, and we win. You put it all together, and I don't understand. I truly believe that nine out of ten Milwaukeeans know about the Wave. The tenth person just moved here. But the question is why don't the nine people come?

OMC: You've had a lot of bosses over the years. How concerned is the current owner about the fan support?

KT: Right now, Mr. (Jim) Lindenberg (the Wave team owner since 2009) is trying everything he can to make this thing successful, the economy isn't great, and so it's a frustrating time. I just can't figure it out.

OMC: Do you think you'll get any runoff from Bucks fans that can't go to games as long as the NBA is locked out?

KT: I don't think it's going to come aboard right now. I think it's going to be a slow trickle effect. A slow water faucet just dripping and dripping. Maybe if the NBA does cancel the season, maybe there are corporations and people that are looking for ways to spend their disposable income; hopefully they'll pick the Wave.

OMC: How much longer do you want to do this?

KT: This is no different to me than a factory job. How much longer would I be managing a corporation if that's what I did? It's not a secret that we don't have a retirement fund; it's no secret that we have to generate our own 401(k) and things like that. I think with the new baby, but most importantly with the passion I still have to keep learning more and more, I want to keep doing this until I can't do it any more.

OMC: I guess it's a good thing you look like you're in pretty good shape.

KT: A doctor told me the other day that from age 30 to whenever, when men and women retire, no matter how much money they have, their health, their passion, everything all goes down dramatically. I love that I still have the passion. One day, I'll go down to Brazil. The next day, I'm back with the Wave. I live a charmed life. I coach what I consider to be one of the elite indoor franchises in North America. I get to coach the U.S. futsal team. I get to do all of these other things in between. It couldn't be any better.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.