As the sun began to dip lower and lower behind Blake Hall on the campus of Springfield College on Monday afternoon, bringing with it the end of a perfect September day; it also signaled the end of another women’s soccer practice. With the shadows creeping further down Brock-Affleck Field, the Pride finished out practice with a seven-on-seven team scrimmage. What began as a fun drill quickly turned into a competitive battle – neither team was giving up, each side wanting to win the ultimate bragging rights.
But just as the intensity hit its climax, new head coach Kristin Cannon stopped the practice. She jogged onto the field over to senior goalkeeper Harper, dropped to a knee, and tied her goalies untied left shoe. Cannon then jumped up and resumed the scrimmage as if nothing happened. Although it was something so simple, it is the perfect representation of who Cannon is, and what she wants to bring to the program.
“I believe in people, I believe in building relationships,” Cannon said. “From what I’ve seen, that all builds into the full culture of the team, and culture – although being at times an overused word – is a really important word. Everything that I care about is the people within my program, meeting student athletes, our support staff, just everyone here, because if you’re building those quality relationships, the journey is even more rewarding as you go through the ups and downs of what a season looks like.”
Cannon has just as much experience as anyone on what the course of a season looks like. Growing up in East Greenwich, RI, she explained that she has been a sports fanatic her entire life, and played “everything and anything you possibly could.” Although her first love was ice hockey, she eventually brought her skills to the soccer pitch; where she became very good. In fact, she went on to play Division II at the then Assumption College and became a standout defender.
It was also during this time that Cannon came to the realization of what she wanted to do. After four great years at college, she found that one of the biggest reasons for her success was the coaching the team had.
“I just had a really great college experience playing,” Cannon said. “My teammates and I were extremely close. That’s why I care so much about culture and building close relationships, because that’s how I was. I also saw what that does for the program and our successes in terms of wins and losses.”
“I want players to feel the same kind of experience that I had, and that’s really important to me,” Cannon said.
Graduating from Assumption in 2007 with a bachelor’s in Marketing and Psychology, Cannon immediately rejoined her former team, just this time as the assistant coach, where she held the position for three seasons. But after those three seasons, Cannon decided that she wanted to go back to school for her master’s degree in Sports Management.
She looked no further than a school with one of the best sports management programs in the area, and an opportunity to become a graduate assistant on the women’s soccer team: Springfield College.
During her short stint at Springfield as a graduate assistant, Cannon was still able to be a part of two NEWMAC Championships ᠆ one in 2010 and the other in 2012.
Upon graduating from Springfield in the spring of 2012, she began her journey of being a women’s soccer coach, her first stop being at Johnson State College in Vermont, where after one season of experience she was promoted to head coach.
In the years that have followed, Cannon has built quite an impressive resume. She has held positions at Division I, II, and III levels, including Long Island University Brooklyn, Xavier University, and University of Cincinnati. Most recently, she has served as the Director of Athletics and head girls’ soccer coach at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, NY.
After almost ten years away from campus, Cannon felt that it was time to make a return home.
“I’ve worked at a lot of different schools, and Springfield College just has a really special vibe, with really special people,” Cannon said. “This program has seen such success over the years and what I want for this program is to see that success and more on and off the field. So it means everything to me.”
Cannon takes over for the legendary John Gibson, who announced his retirement last year after a very successful 22-season run as Springfield’s coach; and is just the sixth head coach in program history.
In a position that many would feel pressured about taking over, Cannon finds that her familiarity with the team and past experiences take much of the stress away.
“Obviously, the program, under previous leadership, was really successful,” Cannon said. “I was here for part of that as myself, so I don’t feel pressure. It’s just different… but it is certainly a storied program and I want to keep building on that.”
With it being just her first year as the head coach, Cannon looks to the relationship aspect of things, and feels that if that gets sorted out, everything else will follow in turn.
“I want the players to feel connected to something that’s important to them,” said Cannon. “I want them to believe in themselves. I want them to believe in what we’re doing as a program. I want for everyone in this program to just feel like they’re doing something special and that they are special people. Then other things tend to fall into place.”
For others on the team, they look to keep some of the focus on the field. Returning senior Kaleigh Dale wants her final season on Alden Street to be fun, but also wants the team to play to the best of their abilities.
“As a team, I want to just perform as well as we can every single game. I want to play at a certain standard, and I think we have a lot of talent this year,” she said.
Dale returns to a team that despite being the sixth-ranked seed, made it all the way to the NEWMAC Championship, before falling to the No. 1 ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which was a team that claimed its fourth straight conference championship.
But according to Dale, this year’s team has the chance to finally overcome the MIT juggernaut, as long as they dig deep enough.
“If we all click at the same time and bring the intensity we can, as well as believe in ourselves and especially believe in each other, I think we definitely could put up a result and overcome an MIT-type team.”