The greatest part of being a college coach is getting to work with student athletes during one of the biggest developmental stages of their lives.
I moved from Bennington, Vermont, to Ashland last April to become the Northland College men’s soccer coach, which means I’ve been here long enough for my family and friends to start asking how I feel about working here.
I usually tell them this: I wish I had known about Northland when I was a student.
I love the atmosphere of small colleges, and after working at a few, I think Northland is one of the best.
I would challenge anyone to find a campus our size with our facilities for both athletics and academics. We have a special campus here and I consider myself lucky to play a part at it.
The goal of our men’s soccer program is to graduate our student athletes as individuals that are ready to succeed and contribute to society.
At Northland, we intentionally omit any mention of success on the field with our mission statement because we firmly believe that if we develop good human beings with strong values, the success on the field will come naturally.
Am I teaching my players advanced algebra or chemistry? Absolutely not. What I’m doing is different.
I’m teaching my players how to balance athletics, academics and their social lives in a healthy and productive way. I might not teach mathematics, but I do know how to teach someone who’s struggling in it, to work through it or get help and find a way to be successful.
Athletes and coaches have become a visible part of American life. If you turn on your television or computer, you can almost always find a sporting event during anytime of the day.
People see coaches in the heat of the games without fully understanding all the work behind the scenes.
Sometimes I’m working on major life things with players, like helping them deal with a death in the family, or maybe something is going wrong academically and we need to come up with a plan of action to get things back on track.
Coaches deal with the little things as well. Last month I helped 15 students send fundraising letters in the mail. If you ever want to feel old, talk to a teenager about how to properly address an envelope.
This year, our men’s soccer team — a young team — made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. I’m extremely proud of them.
I’m also equally proud every time someone tells me about a positive encounter they had with one of our guys off the field — it’s another reminder of why I do what I do.
I would encourage anyone reading this to consider coming by and catching a game next fall. On the field, we’re starting to build something special. And off the field, we’re helping build good people. Come check us out sometime.
Greg Gilmore is the head men’s soccer coach at Northland College.