November 21, 2023 at 10:39am
After learning to love the game of soccer in his youth, Brandon Breting has relished coaching the sport to young children through the Northbrook Park District.
Breting’s enthusiasm and dedication earned him the park district’s 2023 Coach of the Year award. The park district couldn’t offer its high-quality programming without volunteer coaches like Breting, Recreation Supervisor Cameron Edelman said.
“Brandon always provides a positive environment for the kids on his teams, and ensures the kids are having fun and are engaged,” he said.
Coaches are nominated for the award by families who participate in youth sports leagues. Parents described Breting as “wonderful,” “highly knowledgeable” and “a positive influence,” and praised his ability to develop rapport with players and always encourage them to try their best, Edelman said.
A real estate developer, Breting has coached primarily soccer, along with some baseball, for just over three years through the park district. He coached kindergarten girls’ soccer in the spring; until the fall, he also coached second-grade girls’ soccer.
Breting said he was stunned at receiving the award. “Obviously it’s very rewarding,” he said. “It makes you feel like some of that additional effort that you put in, people are acknowledging that.”
Breting played soccer in high school while growing up in western Michigan, where he also coached young kids. He stopped playing competitively to attend the University of Michigan and participated in intramural leagues throughout his 20s.
He joined the Northbrook Park District as a volunteer coach after his daughters, now 6 and 8, started playing soccer there. “I loved soccer and I love encouraging both my kids, and other kids, to get out and participate as well,” he said. “It’s a good source of exercise and it’s an easier sport to start out with at these earlier ages.”
His philosophy regarding coaching kids is all about having fun, he said. “I try to teach technical skills, but I also encourage them to have fun with their friends. Especially with team sports — it’s not just about the sport itself, it’s about the camaraderie and the friendships that you form.”
It’s certainly rewarding to see children develop skills and improve their game during the season, he said. “The joy that little girls have when they score a goal … it’s still innocent at these ages. It’s great,” he said.
Coaching kids also hinges on keeping their attention focused on the game, and knowing when they might need a little extra encouragement to feel comfortable on the field, he said. “If they are upset, you try to console them. If they are being a bad sport, you try to reprimand them nicely,” he said. “But the main thing is to have fun.”
He’s also enjoyed interacting with players’ parents, some of whom have become close friends, he said. “We are fortunate, here in Northbrook, that we have a constituency that is fun to be around and makes these games enjoyable,” he said.
Brandon has been receiving treatment for rectal cancer, which sometimes made coaching more difficult in the spring, he said. For example, there were times in April when his face was numb due to the neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. In general, he’s done his best not to let it affect his life too much.
“I am trying not to make it the focal point for everything in my family,” he said. “It’s just an added activity.”
Breting said he will take a step back from coaching this fall, in favor of being a “professional driver” for his daughters, who play multiple sports including travel soccer. “Stepping away was about pure scheduling — my kids might be in two different cities at the same time!” he said.
Because of that, receiving the Coach of the Year award this summer was an especially well-timed honor, he added. “I guess I am going out on a high note,” he said, laughing.