Men's soccer coach teaches on and off the pitch

Every season brings a new challenge, and men's soccer head coach Mike Mooney's 25th season was no different. The team's rocky season finished 9-7-2 with an exit in the conference semifinals.

Mooney cited the injury to starting senior defender Joey Mort as a key circumstance in the team's season. "Considering you lose one of your best players, it changes the matrix of your team," Mooney said.

The team dropped from first to third in their conference after the injury to their leading scorer from last year, according to Mooney. He said that the injury changed the team's approach, which both coaches and players had to adjust to.

Mooney said he believes that coaches need to be malleable. "As a coach, you have to adjust to your personnel," he explained. "You can't be so egotistical to say that your approach is always right." In a more emphatic manner, he said, "If you feel you know everything, get out … The game changes, the players change ... If you're not using something that might help your team because it's not your way of doing it, you're doing your team a disservice."

His willingness to adapt lends to the reason Mooney continues to be an integral part of Geneseo athletics. He first got a job at Geneseo as both a residence hall director and soccer coach. It wasn't what he had wanted, but it got his foot in the door.

While here, Mooney said he has tried to do a decent job of improving the program, succeeded and moved up the ranks. In his time here, he has been the intramurals and recreation director, the assistant athletics director and he is now the associate athletics director.

Mooney pointed to the rest of the experienced Athletics Department staff as evidence for a successful program. "When a lot of people have been here a long time, it says something about the place," Mooney said. He credited a sense of closeness in the department as a source of strength, as well as the entire department's open-minded approach and willingness to talk matters through.

The Division III mindset is very important to Mooney. He said he likes that his players can be both a student and an athlete. Mooney said he isn't sure that the combination is always possible in Divisions I and II.

His individual accolades are staggering. Mooney has been named SUNYAC Coach of the Year four times, as well as the NSCAA Northeast Regional Coach of the Year in 2004. He has a career 253-179-45 record and his teams won SUNYAC titles in 2004 and 2006. He said that he is more proud that his team's combined GPA is over 3.0 than he is of other individual awards.

Mooney, however, doesn't measure his personal success by his on-the-field success. "The true measure of how successful you are as a coach is, where do your student-athletes end up?"

The compassion he has for his players was visible on his face as he told stories of alumni that came back to visit him and thanked him for their experiences on the team. "Did it give them an opportunity to grow and learn?" Mooney continued. "… To me, that tells me that I'm successful."

Evidence of his success lies right in his own department. Nate Wiley, head coach of the Geneseo women's soccer team, played for Mooney when he attended Geneseo. Mooney said that Wiley's coaching success - he led the women's team to a SUNYAC title this year - is a source of great pride for him.

Mooney's approach on the soccer field will continue to change as he keeps learning new thing about the game. His approach for an education-oriented, real-world-ready player is rigid. He hopes that both approaches will bring success, both on the field and off.