Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles featuring the Lawrence soccer teams that participate in the Premier league of Hearland Soccer Assn.
Almost 20 years ago, Mauro Nobre began to coach soccer. Over the past two decades he has coached both youth sports and the Kansas University Club team. In all this time, he has never had any desire to coach high school. Because he noticed a distinct lack of experience in the higher-level players, Nobre has focused on the younger generation.
This is what brought him to the helm of the boys U12 Kaw Valley Force White team.
"For many years, high schoolers didn't have the experience they needed," Nobre said. "I wanted to develop a large pool of players to feed into high school."
By getting kids started earlier, Nobre said they're allowed to stack each year's lessons on top of the other. The KVF White has been together for the past three years, despite some minor roster changes after the first year.
"We really get to enjoy the development," Nobre said. "This particular team has been together since they were 10."
Over the past three years, the team has gone from the basics of soccer to focusing on the particulars and nuances of the game. Unlike the majority of coaches, however, Nobre doesn't beat the tactic card in to the ground.
"I don't overcoach tactically so players are over disciplined tactically," he said. "I think the best soccer is played by creative players."
Nobre tries to emphasize the creative decision making rather than forcing his team to stick to a rigid form of playing. The best players take risks, he said. It isn't just the players that make a successful team, though.
"The first challenge is getting the right talent for the team," Nobre said. "The second challenge is recruiting the right families. It's not enough for players. The family must sacrifice time and money."
According to Nobre, it's a big commitment from the parents, the siblings and the extended family. A portion of the success of KVF White can be credited to the families, not just the players.
"I'm lucky," he said. "We have the best talent, supportive families and the kids are very competitive."
The road to a team of players ready for high school play is not one treaded easily. With only two days a week to practice, both the team and the coach have to hunker down and make sure the right skills are being honed.
"We're extremely limited in our practices," Nobre said. "If I could practice four to five times a week, I would. But since we can't I must be very selective."
In spite of all the trials and stresses of training a team, it's a pure and unadulterated love of the game that Nobre wants to stress above everything.
"What I think is that the more you know, the more skill you have, the more fun the game," he said. "If you push skills and mastery of the ball, it's beautiful to watch what they do."
Nobre said the oldest cliche in sports is that any and every sport can be compared to life.
"You can always find parallels between life and sports. Especially soccer," he said. "Win or lose, regardless, it's a priceless thing kids get out of participating in sports."