Juan Morales named NJYS Recreation Coach of the Year

By Steve Sears

Coach Juan Morales of the Roxbury Soccer Club had a dilemma.

He was approached by the parents of one of his young players who no longer wanted to play soccer. The youngster felt he was not the team’s best player, he felt out of place, and wanted to quit.

Morales recalled the conversations. “I said to the parents, ‘Do not let him quit. Let me talk to him.’” And then to his player, “So, I had a conversation. I said, ‘Listen, if you quit, that is forever. It is never going to go away; you are going to regret for the rest of your life that you quit because you are never going to be able to take that back. But if you fight through it and move on, great things can happen. I cannot force you, obviously, you are your own person. I can only encourage you and tell you that I will do whatever I can to be there for you, at least on the field.”

The mom then approached Morales and said, “I don’t know what you said to him, but he wants to keep playing.”

The youngster remained with the team, and in the final game of the spring season, scored his only goal. 

Morales said, “He was in the right place at the right time. And that was like the moment that anxiety or that sadness, all that stress he had, for a moment just melted away as he ran away after he kicked the ball and scored. I ran onto the field, and I just hugged him.”

Morales was recently named New Jersey Youth Soccer (NJYS) Recreation Coach of the Year. He received his award on Friday, February 2 at the 34th NJYS Annual Awards Dinner. The event, presented by RWJBarnabas Health, was held at the Pines Manor in Edison.

Courtesy of the NJYS website, the Recreation Coach of the Year Award honors and individual who has “demonstrated a superior commitment to sharing the fun and enjoyment of the game of soccer while reinforcing these key attributes: sportsmanship, player development, personal coaching development, community, and involvement.”

Morales, who is 46 and lives in Succasunna, is originally from Mexico, and has been coaching for the Roxbury Soccer Club for four years.

When it comes to his players, Morales teaches and encourages two things, and the first is even before skill and showing up on time. 

“Respect,” Morales said. “That’s the first thing I say. ‘Before we get started with running and everything, the one thing we must talk about is respect, because that is of utmost importance. If you do not have that, then you do not belong on this team, because this team is all about good sportsmanship and player ethics. If you see someone taunting you, you do not taunt them back; the way you get back at them is with skill.’ You must respect the players, our staff, the coaches, each other, and of course, the fans.”

And Morales wants his players to have fun, but he also wants to instill in them a winning mindset. 

Morales said, “One thing that is going to take you through life is to have a winning attitude. If you are going to play this sport, play to win – do not just play to play it. Give it your all- effort and believe in your mind that you can win every time, every game? Will it happen? Realistically speaking and statistically, maybe not. But you always have that winning mentality.”

At the award ceremony, Morales received a plaque, and NJ/NY Gotham head coach, Juan Carlos Amoros, recorded a congratulatory video that all the guests enjoyed. SIGND also presented Morales with a custom ball with a QR code which provides access to the video.


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