My full name is Michael Rogério Ribeiro Salvador. Most people call me Mike.
Where are you from?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I come from a neighborhood called Bonsucesso.
What school / community club do you coach?
I currently coach at PS72 Lexington Academy, both in-school and after-school programs. I have coached in a variety of other schools including PS1, PS2, PS3, PS 137, PS 192 and PS 212.
How long have you been coaching?
I have been coaching soccer since 2006, so for 8 years now.
Tell us about your school / community soccer program?
I have been at Lexington Academy for about 4.5 years now and the majority of kids and families are of Hispanic descent. A good portion of those, are of a Mexican background. So, soccer wise, the liking for it was already there at the beginning, which made the development of a soccer program there an easier ordeal. We could sense not only the kids but also the school were eager to have a program that would engage the whole school. We have a good facility, the rooftop field, although small, but it gives the kids a place to play all year round, in-school and after-school. Also, we have great support from the staff at the school, especially Mrs. McCants, making sure that everything is running smoothly and the kids are safe. Also, all the hard work that Ivan Perez put into this school the past 4-5 years, has made this school a great place for the kids to enjoy soccer.
What are some of the challenges youth faced in your school / community you coach?
Some of the challenges they face include crime and violence on the streets. The neighborhood I'm involved with (East Harlem) has had some problems with gangs. This stress forces the kids in these areas to mature prematurely, in my opinion, which is not always a good thing. I think that due to the fact that the kids have to mature quicker that they get exposed to things at a much earlier stage in their lives, sometimes those things are good but majority of the time they are bad such as tobacco, alcohol, amongst other things. I feel that their inability to know how to deal with those things makes for a big challenge to be faced.
What impact does soccer have on kids you coach?
I think soccer teaches them about self-discipline and the concept of teamwork. I think on a small scale it shows them that in life you could never do it all on your own, that you need the aid of others from time to time to accomplish things and you need to work together with others to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. I feel soccer helps them to grasp that a little bit early on in their lives. It also shows them the importance of physical health, how much exercise can benefit them in different aspects of their lives.
What do you teach the kids through soccer?
I look at this community based experience as a way to be a role model for the kids. I think they absorb things quite easily through observation. As much I can, I try to tell the kids about my own life's experiences. Coming from a poor neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, immigrating to the U.S., having gone through college, etc... So, I think that through soccer, I don't try to teach them anything specifically but I feel that being myself, being true to who I am with them (the kids) at all times, they could relate to that and maybe try to incorporate some of my mannerisms or way to see things in their own lives. The main point I try to get across to the kids I work with is to respect not only themselves but also others around them as well as the environment that they live in and I like to do that by providing the example more so than just drilling them with words.
A story about one of the kids you coach or a class you coach?
Amongst the many situations I've experience while working with the City soccer program, the one that stand out is one that happened two years and it is still happening until today. Two years ago, the Principal at PS72 asked me if I could make an exception to a special needs child to go to soccer twice per week (the demand for soccer at PS 72 is so great that we need to limit the days each grade is able to have soccer) which I said yes to. This child was a second grader at the time but academically he was like a kindergartener. He had problems communicating, couldn't articulate his thoughts very well. His family is Brazilian and don't speak English very well, so as the year went on I sat into meetings the school had with the child's parents to help translate what progress or lack of he was making in school. At soccer, Ryan (the coach I worked alongside with) and I treated him like we treated everyone else, he didn't have any privileges because he was/is a special needs child. He really liked the soccer environment and by the end of that first year with us, he became more articulate while speaking, of course that this is due to a variety of other factors, but the soccer component was/is definitely one of the factors contributing to his development. He is now a 4th grader, his academic level is to that of a 4th grader, where he should be. He has develops tremendously soccer wise and through soccer we found out that he is a very good singer.