Seneca boys soccer coach named Large School Regional Coach of the year

Sam Maira has also been nominated for Large School National Coach of the Year.

Seneca High School boys soccer coach Sam Maira has been named Large School Regional Coach of the year.

Maira first got involved in the sport during his high school years, ironically due to his uncle’s encouragement to take up soccer as a way to get in shape for the basketball team he was a part of. Not long after, Maira fell in love with soccer, and has been involved with the sport ever since.

Maira went on to play soccer for the remainder of his high school career and throughout college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

He was previously an assistant coach to the boys soccer team at Shawnee High School, head coach at Riverside High School and head coach for girls soccer at Shawnee, until Seneca opened its doors in 2003.

Since joining Seneca, he has started the boys soccer program and said the vision for the program has been successful due to his coaching staff consisting of Chris Melograna, Rocky Panarella, Ron Jensen and Mike Manna.

Maira described the team as “astonishing,” winning the conference championship, which Seneca hasn’t won since 2009, followed by winning the South Jersey championship for the first time, making Seneca history.

“It’s a great team accomplishment that somebody recognized our team enough to say ‘OK, he’s coach of the year,’” Maira said. “You’re not coach of the year unless your team does some pretty outstanding things. I’m really happy — I’m happy for the players, I’m happy for the history of the program.”

Not only has Maira been named Large School Regional Coach of the year, but he has also been nominated as Large School National Coach of the year.

So, how does he do it?

His coaching technique stems from the question, “How can you get your team to trust you?”

“You’ve got to love them first. The first thing I do has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, it’s about establishing relationships. I hope I do as much teaching about life off the field as life on the field,” Maira said. “If you’re coaching you should know the X’s and O’s, you can know all the strategies and techniques, but if you don’t have players that buy in to what you’re doing, you’re not going to be successful.”

After years of coaching, one of the most important aspects of being a leader has been his ability to connect with players and equip them with a mindset that can address positive and negative situations, on and off the field.

Maira’s style of coaching is to keep practices interesting and keep the players learning while also enjoying the game. He said this team is the most competitive group of players he’s coached, and they are always challenging each other to become better players.

Boys soccer captain and senior Tommy Fox described Maira as an incredible coach and an amazing person.

“[Maira is] a competitive and intelligent man who pours his heart and soul into his players. He wants the very best for the team. He loved every each and every one of us,” Fox said. “He taught us how to overcome adversity, to become a better player and person. Maira always pushed me to be better and in the end, he succeeded.”

Soccer has given Fox a place where he feels at home, and the soccer family has welcomed him since his freshman year. He said Maira has taught the team to care for one another like brothers, and that brotherhood has kept the team united and allowed them to strive for greatness.

“I am grateful to call him my coach and my friend,” Fox said. “He deserves every praise and award imaginable.”