Medeiros’ impact on youth soccer ‘tremendous’
People Who Made a Difference: Sports Edition
People Who Made a Difference: Sports Edition is a special series recognizing those in the Maui County sports community who have made significant impacts. Stories will run periodically this summer in The Maui News.
When talking about the growth and development of youth soccer on Maui, coach Tony Medeiros always comes to mind.
After over 40 years of dedication to the sport as one of the first Maui Interscholastic League players and later a varsity coach at Maui High School, club coach, referee and tournament administrator– with no plans on stopping soon– Medeiros has made a “tremendous impact” on the soccer community.
“Coach Tony has always been dedicated to our athletic program. He has been a supportive fixture at all Maui High School celebrations, fundraisers, school registrations and athletic events,” Maui High athletic director Michael Ban said last Friday. “Coach Tony has always been a person that you can count on to help and support the kids.”
Medeiros, who during his time as head coach of the Sabers girls soccer team was MIL Coach of the Year 10 times and led the team to 12 MIL titles, is a “hard worker and a generous person,” Ban added.
“He has a tremendous impact within our Saber Family.”
Darlene Bangasan, whose two daughters were coached by Medeiros, said in her People Who Made a Difference: Sports Edition nomination letter that he has inspired many young players and dedicated his life to the “children of Maui being a soccer coach (and) mentor, and made lifetime friends and had become family to many of these children, teens and parents.”
What keeps Medeiros coming back year after year is the sports community and families involved, as well as the players who have made the practices and “games enjoyable and coaching worthwhile.”
“They really appreciate you as a coach and what you do for them, and appreciate coaching for them because without them, you don’t have a good team,” Medeiros said last week. “Over all these, they make me so motivated to keep coaching, because of the players, and of course I love the game.”
He was around 12 years old at the time when organized soccer came to the island, seeing firsthand the birth of the Maui Youth Soccer Organization.
Though he was a baseball player, Medeiros recalled being instantly intrigued by the game. Practices with his first-ever youth team were held at the polo field in Makawao under David Melrose.
Other youth and high school coaches, like Bill King and Alec McBarnet, made an impact on Medeiros’ life and taught him how to “play hard, enjoy the game, and of course, play fair,” he said.
“Wow, I just loved soccer,” Medeiros added. “They were such positive role models. They were competitive and had such passion for the game — I ended up getting that from those guys, those coaches.”
High school soccer leagues finally made it to Maui during Medeiros’ sophomore year for the 1978-79 season. The first-ever scrimmage for the Sabers was held at War Memorial Stadium against defending state champion Leilehua, but Maui High’s uniforms had not yet arrived before their game, so they wore baggy football jerseys, he said with a laugh.
They lost 10-0 and didn’t win a game that season, but tied one with St. Anthony.
“It was so humbling and we knew we had a long way to go,” said Medeiros, who added that the Maui High program came back stronger the following year and has kept the momentum going ever since.
Medeiros started his coaching career as an assistant boys coach in MYSO for 8- to 10-year-olds before he began leading his own club teams. During this time, more and more female players started joining the high school league or signing up for club sports.
The 1981 graduate later took over the girls varsity team at Maui High soon after graduating.
Raymond Cabebe, a Sabers assistant coach for 12 years, said that Medeiros “made a great impact” on girls sport through coaching and expanding opportunities to participate, like starting the No Ka Oi Soccer Tournament 14 years ago as part of the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association.
Medeiros has also been seen cleaning and maintaining the public parks and fields over the years throughout Makawao and Kula to give youth a safe environment to play.
“For soccer in general on Maui, he’s very influential– he’s probably been involved in every soccer league that’s happened,” Cabebe said. “I was pretty much in awe of him because of his experience, he’s been coaching for so long, so I was just on the staff trying to learn from him and basically what I learned from him is that you need to put the player first all the time.”
Medeiros, who treats his teams like family, still has the signed game ball from when the Maui High girls soccer team played in the 1984 state championship against Punahou. The Sabers fell short 1-0 with seconds left on the clock in double overtime in what was the first time any Neighbor Island soccer team had played at the state tournament.
“It was pretty incredible, that’s something I’m pretty proud of,” said Medeiros. “Over the years, I’ve seen so many players come up and move along in their lives and now their kids are playing and they’re coaches — I’m so proud of a lot of them.”
Another memory he’s fond of is when he was an American Youth Soccer Organization club coach and took the all-girls Makawao Ikaika Strikers to compete at the USA Cup in Minnesota– they won the club division in 1991.
Most recently in 2017, Maui High presented Medeiros with the Maui Living Legacy Award for his 35 years of service in its athletics program. Though no longer the head coach, he said he plans to help assist the Sabers this upcoming 2021-22 season.
“He has had tremendous impact on both high school and age-group soccer here on Maui,” Ban said. “Coach Tony has had a positive impact and created many opportunities for our young female athletes to be successful in life. That is his Saber legacy.”
* Dakota Grossman is at firstname.lastname@example.org