Nine years ago, I collaborated with Coronado Youth Soccer’s Director of Coaching Manny Neves on a column that discussed his background as a player, his love of the game of soccer, and what he thought was important in instructing youngsters new to the game. As it turned out, our interview and the subsequent article came out at about the mid-point of his 22-year career with the organization, during which time he coached literally thousands of Coronado kids the techniques required to play the game. Recently Neves retired from his post with CYSL.

Pre-dating his coaching career, Neves, a native of Pico Island in the Portuguese Azores, had a fine professional career, that included being drafted after graduating from Point Loma High School by the North American Soccer League (NASL). “I played against some of the greatest players in the world. Johan Cruyff (Dutch midfielder) was one and Hugo Sanchez, the most famous Mexican soccer player ever, was my roommate.” Another roommate was Carlos Alberto, who was the captain of the Brazilian National Team during the Pele Era and one of the most famous players in the world. “Alberto was going to be a player-coach. He spoke Portuguese and I was like his secretary. I used to answer the phone for him all the time.”

Neves reflected on his playing days. “I wasn’t the greatest soccer player, but I played in the NASL for three years before the league folded. I played midfielder, left, right and attacking. If we were losing, I went in to change the pace of the game. I was a quick little dribbler. I played in the United Soccer League in North Carolina and Houston. I also played for the L.A. Heat and indoors for the San Diego Sockers. During training, I broke my ankle, the fibula and a ligament was severed near the ankle. Also, I don’t have any anterior cruciate ligaments in my knees. I taught myself to run properly and cut.”

“For me it’s important to acquire the bug of the game,” Neves added. “Once you get the bug, it is very difficult to get rid of. The main guy I want to thank is Mike Chase, who is the person who brought me over to Coronado and really gave me this opportunity to be part of Coronado Island and the program for 22 years.”

In the early days when Neves started with the CYSL, his wife Dina was a major contributor to the success of the league. “She helped me out so much, with the tryouts, the paperwork, contracts and the flyers. In those days, if a goal was broken, I would fix it. We built a patio cover, sheds, and we had a big locker for the LED lights we have now. If we had gophers in the field, I would deal with that. If there was a weed, I would pull it. Ten to 12 years later we hired someone to replace my wife. Cindy Gehler is the manager of the club. She and several other board members really helped out. My three daughters Jocelyn, Jaquelyn and Caitlyn all played in Coronado and Caitlyn played on the U16 State Champs. We started with seven or eight teams and at one point we had as many as 26 teams playing Nado Select.”

Neves plans to continue coaching soccer and will work with the San Diego Football Center after the current health crisis subsides. “We’ll be doing training for elite kids who want to go to college or play professionally. I will be the technical trainer for them and handle the skills aspect. It is fun to teach skillful kids who want to be there and do additional or next level training. It’s for kids who want to get better.”

Neves clearly loves coaching and the game of soccer. As we concluded our conversation, he said, “I want to make sure the kids and coaches become better people. I base my success on the success of others. I was always there for the coaches, to make their jobs easier.”

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