May 15, 2014 --
In most youth sports, the majority of coaches are volunteers who have played the game for years, but that is not the case for Emmanuel Melendez and Brett Turano, who had little to no experience playing soccer.
Melendez and Turano did not let their lack of experience deter them from coaching the MCLB Albany Strikerz in the Albany YMCA 6 and under league.
Both with Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany, Turano holds the rank of petty officer second class and is the readiness coordinator, and Melendez is a petty officer third class and an X-ray technician.
Melendez, Strikerz’s head coach, admitted to only playing “back yard” soccer when he was young, while Turano, assistant head coach, revealed he knew nothing about soccer until he became Strikerz’s head coach for the 2013 season.
“I’ve actually never played soccer,” he said. “I learned how to coach soccer by researching it on the Internet. At first, I did not think I would like it, but now I love coaching.”
Despite being only second year coaches, Melendez and Turano led the Strikerz to two successful seasons: 7-1 in 2013 and undefeated 7-0 in 2014.
It’s not just about winning, according to Melendez. The lessons the children learned from playing the game go beyond the soccer field.
“We are not only teaching them about soccer, but also respect,” Melendez said. “We teach them to respect and listen to their superiors, such as their parents and coaches. By respecting their parents, they are going to respect their coaches and by respecting their coaches, they will respect the game.”
Turano echoed Melendez’s sentiments.
“I think (we) have a positive impact on (the children because) we are teaching them discipline, sportsmanship and how to (work as) a team,” Turano said. “What we want them to take away is that hard work and dedication pays off. Don’t do anything half way. Do everything to the fullest.”
According to Turano, most of the players, ages 4-6, have been playing together for more than a year.
“We have watched them grow from not knowing what’s going on, running into each other and playing on the field to them playing good defense, passing and scoring,” he said.
With discipline and training from passionate coaches, the players learned to play as a team and have some fun in the process.
Turano described the players as having a lot of character.
“We have had some games where they stopped the game because the players started acting like they were Transformers,” he said as he laughed.
Maranda Turano said she did not know what to expect when her family joined the soccer league four seasons ago.
“(Playing soccer) has taught our son discipline, teamwork, accountability, dedication, good sportsmanship and how to make it through adversity,” she said. “We owe a lot to our coaches who have pushed through and made this all happen.
“Watching our (children) practice hard week in and week out and to see their faces when they come out undefeated at the end of the season, is priceless,” she said. “These are the moments we will never forget.”
Melendez credits discipline and training for the team’s success.
“I wished I had someone to push me as much as I pushed them because I feel that a couple of the (players) have the potential of (becoming professional soccer players),” he said.
The coaches agreed there are many rewards to coaching youth soccer.
Turano said he joined the Navy to support and defend the nation and since being stationed here, he has realized mentoring children is a big part of it.
“If you are in the military and don’t (get involved in your community), I think (you are) missing out.”