Salar Melli coaches Delton’s U15 and U17 boys’ community soccer teams, bringing kids together through sports. 

The Delton youth soccer teams, like other community youth soccer teams in the city, play in the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (EMSA). Melli’s teams have two practices a week, and there is usually one game every week as well. In October, the teams transition to indoor soccer so that the practices and games can continue even during the winter. 

Soccer was always a passion of Melli’s, and when the pandemic hit, forcing him to close his restaurant, he decided to give coaching a chance. “I wanted to do something I liked, and I played soccer for a long time,” says Melli. “I was always interested in [the] strategy part of it, and so I decided maybe coaching would be interesting for me. And I got into it, and it’s been awesome. I enjoy doing it.” 

Melli has been coaching for two years. He started coaching players at the U13 level and has followed them as they aged up into U15. 

As a coach, he  encourages the kids to play their best, work harder, and continue growing. He introduces training exercises, talks to the kids about their performance and possible ways to improve it, and goes over the individual responsibilities of each player. And it’s a team effort. Players ask questions, suggest training ideas as well, and find creative solutions to problems they’re experiencing on the field. 

But it’s building relationships that’s Melli’s favourite part about coaching. “The community aspect is definitely very rewarding,” he says. “Also, I feel like in the bigger picture with the kinds of communities we’re working with, it’s important [that] kids are more [involved] in sports. They stay out of trouble more. It’s a good purpose to have.” 

Last season, the U15 team won a gold medal in a Beaumont tournament and a silver medal in the Edmonton City Championship. 

Melli says that mutual trust played a big part in their success. “For me as a coach, it’s been always [about] letting the kids really take ownership of their own journey in a way and just being there to support,” he says. “I introduce new concepts every now and then [and] try to work with them to grasp the concept. But ultimately, they really want to win games and they really enjoy playing together. And I think it’s just creating an environment where everyone is happy to be in… and it all takes root from there.”

A great part about community soccer teams is that the atmosphere is very supportive and more focused on fun, compared to club teams, which are more competitive and serious. Kids in the community can sign up for a team, there are no try-outs, and kids with a variety of skill levels interact on the same team. Fees for community soccer are also lower than club teams fees. 

“We have a variety of levels of players,” says Melli. “Some players, it’s their first year signing up. They haven’t ever touched a soccer ball. And some players [play at a]… very high level and I’m kind of bringing all of those players together… for mutual understanding.”

Dedication and discipline are some qualities that make a great soccer team, explains Melli. It’s important to show up to training every week, he says, since that builds harmony among teammates. “The camaraderie on the team is important,” adds Melli. “Then you see a team that’s united not only on the pitch but off pitch.” 

While having fun is the primary goal, Melli’s team is also driven to succeed. He says there is still room for improvement. For example, the team could try to make Provincials this season. “There [are] still new motivations out there for them to go for this season,” he says. 

But ultimately, it’s the relationships formed between players and the fun players have together that matters most. “We’re here to have fun and enjoy our time and get better at playing soccer. And if we win some games along the way, that’s fantastic. And if we lose, we learn our lessons and move on from it,” says Melli.