Q&A: Steve Selby
Steve Selby is well known around East Brunswick as a soccer guru. A long-time, very successful coach in the East Brunswick Soccer Club and later club president, Steve recently connected with EBSC (and another former EBSC president, Ron Brandsdorfer) for a discussion on US and world soccer and, closer to home, youth soccer in East Brunswick.
EBSC: Steve, tell me about your early soccer days. What were some highlights and most memorable moments?
Steve: I grew up in England and started playing when I was about 8 or 9 years old. There were no coaches or anything -- just street ball as was common in those days. The first organized games I played were at age 13 and up when I played for my school team. At age 15 I was selected to play for Manchester Boys, and that was basically an all-star team made up of the best school boys. After moving to the US I played semipro soccer for the Brooklyn Italians and Silver Lake SC in the Cosmopolitan Soccer league. My son Lee is playing in the same league now! The biggest highlight for me was being picked to play in a friendly against the US National team.
EBSC: Most people who know you are well aware that you are a huge Manchester United fan. In fact, I know you still go to games as often as you can. Why this life-long commitment to United?
Steve: Ha, good question. In 1958 Man Utd were returning home from a European Cup (now Champions League) game and their plane crashed on take-off at Munich, killing many great players. I was eight years old at the time. My cousin was also dating one of the players so it was a major impact on my life at that time. Ever since there has only been one team for me.
EBSC: It is amazing how many local youth players today follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and all the great club teams around the world. And there even seems to be increasing support for MLS soccer, starting with the Red Bulls. Why do you think it’s important for young players to follow professional teams and players?
Steve: Youngsters always need sporting heroes to emulate. For me, it was George Best and Bobby Charlton. By following the professional game and watching it at the highest levels young players can learn by watching. It is better that the youth watch, play and learn themselves as much as possible. As a coach, I always felt a player learns easier himself without being instructed. I always tried to coach refinements to a child's technique rather than teaching technique.
EBSC: You were a long-time coach in EBSC and a very successful one, with one of the top teams in the state year after year. What advice would you share with youth coaches today?
Steve: Obviously, above all youth soccer has to be an enjoyable experience for all the players and that often comes from the coach. Kids very quickly can figure out if the coach is enjoying what he or she is doing. Always make sure part of every practice is light hearted, crack some jokes. Work the kids hard but let them fool around a little too. If you are coaching a premier team always push to enter the most competitive tournaments. Don't worry about losses. Emphasize the positives and the standard the team is playing at. On a personal level, I always felt it best to not get involved with the finances of the team and let a parent handle all that. Be up front with the parents on what your expectations are for the team and just as important what your expectations are for the parents!
EBSC: You also coached your son, which is always very challenging – that is, that separation between father and coach. How were you able to do that successfully (especially since your son went on to an excellent collegiate career at Fairleigh Dickinson University)?
Steve: I explained to Lee that his job is to prove himself to his fellow players and less so to me. When he steps on to the field for practice or a game he is another player in my eyes. I also told him that if I had to make a playing decision and I felt it was 50/50 between him and another player he would lose out. It seemed to have worked out OK -- at least Lee has never said anything to the contrary.
EBSC: As president of EBSC, you worked with many volunteers – coaches, board members, parents, etc. How important were volunteers to the success of EBSC?
Steve: The parent volunteers are the lifeblood of the club. Without them we would lose our identity and would just become another academy/business and not a hometown club