Carlos Moreira is the Director of Manhattan Soccer Club’s U5-U7 Development Academy. In addition to the U5-U7 Academy, MSC runs a Toddler program for 3-5 year olds as well as offering all levels of development and competition for players up to age 23.
Tell us a little about your background.
I am always conflicted on what to say when people ask me where I grew up. My father was in the Air Force so we moved around quite a bit. I was born in Jersey City, NJ and lived there for a bit. My father moved around a lot so we had a short stint in Texas and then spent six years in Japan.
I first started playing competitive soccer while I was living in Japan from the age of 5 to 11. At the start of 8th grade when I was 14 we moved to Fayetteville, GA where I played for the local very competitive club AFC Lightning. I also loved playing basketball and football, which gave me skills that I could not learn just playing soccer. Once I graduated high school I high-tailed it up north. I worked for Hyatt Hotels Corp. for a bit after high school, as I wanted to do “my own thing,” whatever that was at the time. I am really glad I did as I learned invaluable lessons about work at a young age. I decided I needed to enroll back in school and have a college experience. I enrolled at William Paterson University and made the team as a walk-on. I had a great experience there and was fortunate to meet some great people.
After graduating from William Patterson I moved to Manhattan and have been here ever since. I started coaching in 2008 with Super Soccer Stars working mostly with young players ages 2-5. I never felt like coaching was “work,” so I decided to take on more classes, which was my big step into making coaching a profession. The opportunity to coach more competitive players and eventually teams came when Super Soccer Stars started their Premier Program. They gave me an opportunity and it was the best decision of my life. From that point on I have been fortunate enough to meet so many great players of every level and great parents. I was allowed to develop players in my own way, which gave me great room to grow as a coach. I started out with wonderful players at age five and was able to keep them together playing a certain style of soccer until they were age 12. At the same time I coached two competitive teams, I was also still keen to stay developing younger players. The five to seven age group is my favorite as they are still so young and imaginations are still running…it helps me have an excuse to act like a big kid.
What is special about MSC’s U5-7 Development Academy?
The U5-U7 Development Academy is centered around building technical ability/ball mastery to prepare the young players for our travel teams when they reach age eight. We develop this skill with ball mastery games, which are fun for kids but at the same time also develop the technical skill needing to compete in the future. Classes are intentionally meant to create a fun yet challenging atmosphere in which kids are encouraged to show their confidence and technical ability on the ball. Every class will end with a scrimmage “big game” in which the kids can try to apply the skill or “move” they learned that day in class. Players will learn or reinforce a skill each class. Classes start with a game, an introduction to a skill, learning the skill, applying the skill with a bit of pressure (mainly 1v1) and at the end they can use the skill in the “big game.” I think every program is different in its own special way. I think ours is different because we want our players to get better but most importantly we want to help them develop their passion for the game.
How do you make soccer fun for children so young?
I have always thought that when you are the coach you are in charge of the atmosphere. I think the children have fun because I LOVE to coach. I like to make random jokes, lots of high fives, being silly and also being excited about the class. Children pick up on the atmosphere and energy from the coach. If I am excited about the lesson, children feed off that energy and end up having a great time. We encourage children to take chances and make mistakes. When children know it’s ok to make mistakes they tend to play much freer. For this age group I am not a big fan of cone drills. I try to think about it from a child’s point of view. What children love about soccer is running and playing with the ball. This is why in my classes we play games that involve both. When they are engaged with the class it makes it so much easier for them to receive the lesson that is being taught. They take away a sense of accomplishment, which adds to their confidence.
Is 5-7 years old too young to begin playing competitive soccer? Why did MSC feel the need to start the U5-U7 Development Academy?
Children are competitive by nature. Some more then others as I have experienced. There is competition in our classes because children feel competition sometimes with their peers, siblings or themselves. As a coach you want to show them that competition is, ok but also at the same time teaching them how to have good sportsmanship. I think MSC like every other club started a development academy so that they can develop players at a young age so that they can make their way through their elite travel teams. Developing players through from a young age and “graduating” them to our travel teams helps develop a sense of community or soccer family if you will, which is what MSC strives to do.
What happens to MSC players as they get older?
MSC has a great pathway set up here for young players should they want to take their soccer to the next level. MSC is affiliated with NYCFC which we have teams compete in their developmental leagues. They also keep track of players who play on our elite teams to see if they are ready to be part of their program. This past season we had three of our players selected for NYCFC’S elite academy teams. Our older teams compete at the national level and we even have National Champions in our ranks. We are unique in the fact that we have a pathway for young players to progress through and proven to take players to the next level.
What initially brought you to NYC?
Well I would say it was my own idea but it wasn’t. I was actually not to keen to come to NYC but I was in a relationship for some time with someone who lived here already, so I took the step in coming here. I can say it’s the best decision I have made. I really love this city and the eclectic mix of people.
What drove you to become a soccer coach?
It was something I fell into. I went into an interview for a soccer coach position and that was when my coaching journey started. At first it was something I liked doing because I love children and consider myself a big old kid anyway. But once I saw five-year old kids doing things I couldn’t do until I was a teenager, it sparked my fascination with coaching and developing players.
How is the landscape of youth sports and specifically soccer changed/evolved from when you were growing up?
It has changed drastically. When I was growing up it was hard to stay in soccer because all of my friends were into the classic American sports. Also it was hard to have a role model or a favorite player in soccer because to watch the big European clubs play on TV you had to have satellite or a special channel. It wasn’t as accessible as it is now. Now I can watch games on my phone on the go all the time! Kids nowadays are able to watch their teams and players play. They are able to fuel their passion of the sport watching highlights, You Tube videos or just clips of their favorite player. I see a lot more passionate young players now as opposed to when I was growing up it was just considered a sport you play to get into other sports. I think everyone has played recreational soccer at this point. Children have the chance to immerse themselves in soccer via multiple outlets, which I think was harder to do when I was growing up. Also the coaching has changed. When I was growing up people only valued athleticism and now you see coaching is geared more to developing skill and decision-making.
You played Division III soccer. What did it take you to play at that level? What do you tell parents who say their kids are destined to play college soccer?
It takes a lot of dedication and focus to play at that level. Confidence is key, not just for playing soccer but for all the situations you encounter when on a college campus. If you’re confident you tend to make the right decisions when the time comes. You have to really have a passion for the sport because it will be the only thing that carries you through the grueling preseason and the rapid-fire season. I would say to parents that much like college soccer and life it takes a real passion and vigor for sports at that level. Try to find ways to inspire that passion for the game but also remember at the end of the day it’s THEIR passion
What has been your proudest moment as a soccer coach?
My proudest moment as a coach is seeing a star player pass the ball to an open teammate rather than attempt to score on his own. No matter how many times I witness it, I am always moved by the instant when their love for the game and their respect for each other overcome their desire for individual stardom. Often, when kids learn independence, they associate it with not needing other people. Sports humble us and remind us that we can only succeed if we work together, for no one player can single-handedly win a trophy.
What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?
I look for passion for children, the game and for connecting with children. Empathy is helpful trait when working with children. It’s important that they seem playful because at the end of the day the children show up to have fun.
You must have lots of great stories from your years working with kids. Tell us about one that inspired you.
You are right! So many they all blend into one big happy memory. I really enjoy watching the young players. I had a child come to me who knew nothing about soccer and really wasn’t the most athletic. The hard part was that he knew he wasn’t good and wasn’t as athletic as the other boys. I explained to him that soccer is more about skill and decision making then anything else. He was a smart boy and also very dedicated. From that point on, with a bit of confidence, he showed up to every class and really put in great effort for years. Before I left my past club he had worked himself up to the elite team of his age division, which was my team. He was so excited to finally be playing for me but he also remembers (and jokes about) how bad he used to be when he first met me. Seeing that child develop not just as a player but as a person has been one of the greatest memories I have.
What was the best advice you got from a coach?
Give your players chances to make mistakes, it’s the only way they grow and let the players play!
What is your most treasured sports possession?
Whichever cleats I am using to play in at the time.
Red Bulls or NYCFC? NYCFC for sure
What is your favorite sports venue in New York City and why?
Madison Square Garden of course. It’s just very grand and synonymous with New York City.
Favorite sports book? Friday Night Lights
Favorite sports movie? Mighty Ducks and Remember the Titans
Best sports memory? Al the car rides to and from games.See more New York Sports Connection articles
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