MADISON, NJ - It was around this time last year when word starting spreading that a new soccer club was coming to town. So, how did Morris Elite’s debut season go? Amazingly well, according to owner Vincenzo Bernardo.
“We had 106 kids attend tryouts, and from that we were able to field five full teams for the fall 2016 season,” he said.
The reason for Morris Elite’s strong start is simple: it’s different.
“Morris Elite is not your typical soccer club. First of all, there is no soccer board and there isn’t any politics. All of our coaches are true soccer people who are devoted 100 percent to their players,” said Bernardo. “They know the game, they are soccer minded, and they are genuinely good people. Also, with me, you get someone from Madison who has been there, who knows how it all works and how best to relate to the kids. That’s our ‘X’ factor.”
Bernardo also stressed that Morris Elite teaches soccer the right way, focusing on improving overall body coordination at every stage of a child’s athletic development.
“Young players need to be taught not just technical skill but how to control their bodies, which is more difficult than it seems because they are constantly growing and changing,” said Bernardo. “At Morris Elite, we address this and take it into account so that kids grow into their bodies properly. The training that we do has been working tremendously. Our players are getting better after each session.”
“What I like most about Morris Elite is that there is consistency in coaching and philosophy across the entire club,” said Disha Modi, whose first grader plays for the U9 Juventus team. “My son’s coaches take the time to evaluate and encourage each player, making sure they understand key concepts, all without raising their voice or showing frustration. Honestly, they make it look easy.”
Bernardo grew up in Madison, and he still lives here.
“I was a Madison kid. I went to King’s Road and MJS and kicked a soccer ball around the high school fields at all hours with my friends,” he said. “To come back here and share the love of soccer with kids who are growing up the same way I did is the ultimate joy for me.”
After MJS, Bernardo attended St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, one of the top high schools in the country for soccer, and went on to win two national titles with his team. Bernardo also played for what is now known as the Red Bulls Academy, and won a national title with them as well.
Bernardo then moved to Italy at the age of 16 to pursue a professional soccer career. He also played for the United States national team at the U-17 and U-20 levels.
“The next stage in my life is to offer kids in Madison and surrounding towns the best training they deserve,” said Bernardo. “Ultimately, Morris Elite is going to compete with the best clubs in the area.”
Today, Morris Elite teams compete in the Morris County Youth Soccer Association (MCYSA) league and participate in a number of tournaments throughout the year. One girl’s team, U11 Napoli, nearly won their MCYSA Flight 1 championship last fall.
“We are very well positioned for growth, and we are ready,” said Bernardo. “There were a lot of kids who came to us from other clubs last year who were about to give up on soccer, but they trusted us, they trusted the process, and now they love the game again. That gives me a huge sense of satisfaction, and I am very much looking forward to the future.”
Tryouts for next year (which are free) will take place on April 17 and 25 for boys and girls born 2010 to 2007 and April 19 and 27 for boys and girls born 2006 to 2004. Bernardo urges parents to register their kids for tryouts as soon as possible.
Bernardo is also planning to launch the Morris Elite Youth Foundation, a free program for younger kids born 2011 to 2013. The details are still being worked out, but the program will start in September and focus on the fundamentals of soccer. It will feature one practice a week with a game on the weekend.
“You want quality training from the very beginning,” said Bernardo. “The younger the player, the faster they will develop and gain skill.”
Other things coming down the pike include training workshops for high school students during the off-season and a scholarship program open to everyone in the club. He also mentioned that he will be hiring additional quality coaches as the club grows.
“Vincenzo has put a lot of thought, effort, and time into his business and it shows,” said Modi. “The communication in particular has been abundant, timely and precise which I have not gotten from other clubs. Also, he is very approachable and responsive to parents, unlike other clubs where the mentality sometimes can be ‘our way or the highway.’”
ADDITIONAL PARENT FEEDBACK
“Our experience with Morris Elite has been very positive,” said Christine Preston, a parent of a sixth grader. “My son played on the U12 team and benefited tremendously. He received solid training from the coaches, improved developmentally, and gained more confidence on the field.”
“We have been very happy with the customized training that our son has been receiving with Morris Elite,” said Carolyn Bambaci, who has a third grader. “They are teaching him not only to love the game but to respect it as well.”
To learn more and to register for tryouts, visit morriselitesoccer.com.