One of the legendary coaching figures in Division III men’s soccer, Jon Anderson ’75, P’04 P’08 P’13 P’13 now is in his 35th season as the Beavers’ head coach. Anderson was a starter on on Babson’s 1975 national championship squad and was inducted into the Babson College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. Anderson, who ranks fifth among active Division III coaches and 19th all-time with 416 wins, has coached 14 All-Americans while leading his program to 13 conference championships and 17 NCAA tournament appearances over the past three-plus decades.
How are your soccer players doing, and how are you keeping them active and engaged this fall?
“Practice has just started, so they are all still finding their footing so to speak. Since April, they have been concentrating on personal skill development and fitness training. Instead of just a captain of the team, we have one or two leaders in each class to form a leadership group. Our coaching staff gets regular input from them. To help with motivation, we placed our players into training groups that included the new recruits. Each group came up with its own ideas to create competition within their group and between groups. This has helped them to stay mentally and physically engaged. We also checked in, having Zoom calls with the entire team on a regular basis.
“This time has also been used to talk about the different positions on the field and how they fit into our system. As we begin training this (month), it will be challenging to compete under the current circumstances, but the team has a positive attitude and I am sure will make the most out of the next six weeks. As is the same every year but even more so important with the changes COVID has brought, I want each player to be comfortable coming to me individually with any questions or concerns.”
A lot of focus on college athletics has been placed on Division I schools (especially football programs), but how has the cancellation of spring and fall sports impacted Babson’s athletics department?
“Division III athletes are very different from Division I athletes. Our athletes at Babson are here for both the education and to pursue their sport. As difficult as it has been for coaches and players alike, the nature of competition is to deal with adversity, solve problems, and move ahead. I see this across the board with our staff and athletes.”
In your role as senior associate athletics director, you’re also overseeing the operation of BRAC (Babson Recreation and Athletics Complex). How has the reopening gone, and how have athletes and other students been able to take advantage of the facilities on campus?
“As much as we planned over the summer, there were still changes happening right up until opening week. We were able to open smoothly and safely in large part due to our coaching staff stepping in and working to have the building ready. Thankfully, they have stepped up to run our check-in and supervise the workout areas. We are opening in phases, and the students have been working with us to make sure everyone is safe and making the most efficient use of the space. Key people—such as athletics facilities manager Ilyza Holman, women’s lacrosse head coach Michelle Smith, and women’s lacrosse assistant coach Maggie Chizmar—have played an integral role in the early success of reopening the fitness center.”
“Babson is much more than a job. It’s a passion; it’s a way of life.”
Jon Anderson, men's soccer coach
How has Division III athletics evolved since your playing days, and during your career as a coach?
“As you might imagine, this is always a topic of debate among our alumni. There is a much greater number of very good, technical soccer players, but I am not sure there is the number of creative and dynamic players that we saw in Division III years ago. Much more organized practices instead of pick-up play could be a factor.”
Only three Division III coaches have been on the sidelines longer than you entering 2020. What about coaching at Babson has kept you excited and allowed you to have such a lengthy and successful career?
“Even this year, the first day of practice was different but exciting. The day I am not excited about opening day is when it is time to think about doing something else. The game and the students keep me young and driven to continue coaching. It has always been fulfilling to watch their growth not only while at Babson but also throughout their lives.”
Two More for Jon Anderson
What does Babson mean to you?
“As an alumnus, an employee, and a parent who has seen four children graduate from this school, Babson is much more than a job. It’s a passion; it’s a way of life.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? “Any materials I can find on how to motivate and train players under strict COVID-19 regulations and to safely operate BRAC for our students.”
- Watching? “My family and I just started the Netflix show, ‘Away.’ A great quarantine watch for us was ‘Snowpiercer,’ and we just recently finished the latest season of ‘Yellowstone.’
- Listening to? “I’ve been listening to different podcasts about diversity issues that my daughter has recommended to me. Specifically, on my commute, I’ve listened to many of the YouTube videos titled ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ by sports analyst and former NFL player Emmanuel Acho.”
- Doing in your free time? “I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and my grandchildren. We keep a tight circle so that we are able to support and keep each other safe.”
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