Many young soccer players in Mansfield have learned the sport through a local former pro, and that teacher will soon be doing more coaching.
Steve Long was born in Africa and lived in Brazil, where he taught himself to play the sport which would later take him into college, where he’d become an All-American, then to the Olympics and later as a pro with the Chicago Sting.
Long has been leading soccer training in Mansfield for 12 years and has been working with the Mansfield Soccer Association to coordinate his efforts.
“Soccer is one of the best sports to develop athleticism,” Long said. “It teaches footwork and balance, and teaching ball skills with a Brazilian style helps develop finesse, possession ball and individual ball skills such as dribbling, short creative passes and triangles,” he said.
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He contrasts the Brazilian style with the German style with a focus on more precise and methodical style of play, with a fast counter-attack style.
He also teaches Futsal, a recreational form of soccer that is played on a gym court.
He refers to his teaching as “samba soccer” after the Brazilian dance. “It’s samba with the ball,” he explained.
When he moved to the US, Long said he noticed American kids weren’t developing skills as well as what he experienced in South America.
Since the 1960s and ’70s, Long said there are more American kids playing soccer than other sports combined.
“It’s a starter sport, though,” Long added. “High school and junior high level kids needed to develop more skills.”
He compared soccer in Brazil with basketball in the inner cities here in the US. It’s part of the culture there to have pick-up games of soccer and for individuals to work more on their own skills.
“I want to help create that culture in Mansfield,” Long said.
Now, he works with kids as young as age 3 all the way up to high schoolers and he now works with hundreds of kids most days of the week. “I’m the pied piper of soccer,” he said.
Long is proud that he has helped get at least three clubs started. The clubs continue to grow and split and create more opportunities for kids to play the sport he loves.
Long is now looking to create his own teams to coach, in addition to instructing others who will then go to play on various teams.
The desire to coach a competitive team, the Samba Kings, is just now taking shape and will consist of three or four competitive teams.
In addition, Long is conducting a summer soccer camp starting this month.
Starting the last week of June, the camp is targeted for kids ages 3 and up.
The cost for the 3-4 year old group is $35 with the other age divisions being comparably priced.
Long was born in Africa and raised in Brazil. He graduated from Wheaton College, where he was a two-time All-American and played on the U.S. Olympic team in 1979-80, the year which was boycotted by the U.S. Long also played for the Chicago Sting when they were the 1981 NASL Soccer Bowl champions. He also played for the Memphis Americans of the MISL, the Las Vegas Americans and the Jackson Rockers.