..as reported in The Palm Beach Post
By Dave Montrose
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Soccer coaches, like coaches in any sport, are given different labels from their players. Some are considered tyrants, some easy going, others incompetent. Boca Raton resident Hannah Speer’s label for her coach, however, is “the best ever.”
Speer, 12 and a sixth-grader at St. Andrew’s School, was one of 27 winners nationally of “The Best Coach Ever” essay contest, put on by Nordstrom and Nike. She was presented with the prize of a gym bag, T-shirt and jacket at the Town Center mall on Jan. 29.
Delray Beach Red Hots player Hannah Speer won a national award for her essay on her coach, Tony Stevens. ‘He doesn’t care about us winning all the time, he just expects us to try our best,’ she wrote.
The coach who earned this lofty title is Tony Stevens, coach of the Delray Beach Red Hots.
“I told them that he was a great coach, because he doesn’t really let the parents influence him in how he teaches,” Speer said. “He’s in his own style, and he makes sure that he spends enough time on a skill before he moves on, so we have it down.”
Stevens, 58, is a native of Manchester, England and coached at Manchester University and Manchester United’s nursery team. He also coached several other youth teams, which he brought to the United States to compete in tournaments, where he liked what he saw, both on the soccer field and in the weather.
“I decided to pack up and come over here because I hate the cold,” Stevens said. “
Stevens approaches the game with the kids in mind. “I want a girl coming off – we could lose 6-nill – and she could come off with a smile on her face, and say, ‘Wow! What a game!That was great!'” he said. “I hate it when they come off crying because they lost. Then I realize they’re not playing for the real reasons. The game’s the most important thing, having them play for fun, play for pleasure, for enjoyment is better. Growing up is enough stress as it is. Sports and recreation should be handled that way.”
In fact, when asked about the Red Hots giving up only one goal in the previous season, Stevens remarked: “I don’t know. I’m not interested… As long as we play to our ability… I couldn’t care less about statistics.”
Another tenet of Stevens’ coaching philosophy is the lack of parental involvement. “It’s not a parent’s game,” he said. “They’ve had their youth. It’s for the kids, and the kids are responsible for making their own decisions, and the more decisive they become, the better decisions they make and the better players they become. I just guide them, really, and hopefully I want them to be an extension of me. We’ve got some more coming forward now and taking that responsibility.”
Speers wants to play professional soccer. Her favorite team is Manchester United, and Ronaldinho is a player that she likes.
Here is her essay:
“My coach is the best ever because he doesn’t care about us winning all the time, he just expects us to try our best. When he trains our team, he spends enough time on one skill before we move on to the next skill, so we perfect each one. My favorite thing about my coach is that he expects us to play for ourselves, and not because our parents want us to play for ourselves, and not because our parents want us to play. I started training with him, almost three years ago. Over those years I have come to know what Tony (my coach) is all about. He stands out from all the other coaches. He doesn’t let parents influence how he coaches our team, but inspires us to become the best players we can with our own will and desire. That’s what my coach is all about.”