July 29, 2005
RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS
Eagles' Steffens takes on Riders on Saturday
Long-time Long Island soccer coach Mark Steffens returns to his roots on Saturday night, July 30, when his Charlotte Eagles take on the Long Island Rough Riders in a USL Second Division game at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, L.I. at 7:30 p.m.
Steffens, a Huntington, L.I. native, lived for many years in Syosset and played professionally with the New York Apollo of the American Soccer League in 1975 and 1976.
As his pro career ended, Steffens started to coach. He was the junior varsity coach at Berner High School from 1975-79, head coach at The King's College from 1980-83 and men's assistant coach at Farmingdale State from 1983-84.
In the mid-1980s, Steffens was an assistant coach with the New York Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League, then an assistant and later coach of the MISL's New York Express.
He turned his focus back to coaching youth and was an ODP coach with the Long Island Junior Soccer League as well as its coaching director a decade ago.
Steffens also served as the head coach for the LIJSL's Commack Connection from 1990 to 1996 as well as assistant coach of Syosset High School boys team from 1988 to 1994 and the head coach at Chaminade High School in 1995 and 1996, before moving to North Carolina to become the head coach of the Eagles in 1997.
Charlotte was a Pro Soccer League finalist last year, losing to the Utah Blitzz in a penalty kick shootout after a 2-2 tie after 120 minutes of regulation and extratime.
Pro sports teams that utilize names such as Saints, Angels and Padres do not have any religious affiliation although the Eagles are a Christian soccer team and their name comes from this passage in the Book of Isaiah: "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings of eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."
Steffens said that that the Eagles' mission is "to communicate the message of Jesus Christ through the environment of soccer. We want to be goodwill ambassadors to disadvantaged children around the world. MAI, Missionary Athletes International, wants to teach children in soccer and good sportsmanship as well as point them to God."
Steffens is a non-denominational ordained minister. "But I don't speak from behind a pulpit, I speak on the soccer field. The venue is a bit different but I believe it is very effective," he said.
His father, Rev. Paul Steffens, is the director of the Christian Fellowship House adult residence in Syosset. Steffen's father and brother also pastor the Syosset Gospel Church, a long direct kick from the Christian Fellowship House.