By Hayden Choate
In 2000, John Gibson, formerly the head men’s soccer coach at Marshall University, was hired to head the Springfield College women’s soccer team.
Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament, seven NEWMAC championships, six NEWMAC coach of the year awards and 22 years later, Gibson has announced he will retire from coaching and teaching at the end of the academic year.
“I’ve been lucky and I’m grateful for that,” Gibson said about his career at Springfield.
In his 22 years as head coach for the Pride, Gibson put together an impressive record of 268-183-46. His team played for the NEWMAC title 11 times in the last 14 seasons.
Gibson, who will be 66 at the end of this month, says a lot of factors went into making this decision.
“If you think back when COVID hit and we were supposed to be going to Spain and that fall was supposed to be the 40th anniversary celebration and those two things got whacked,” Gibson said, “Then I was stranded in Wales for four months which was fine, but then the weird year we had last year and then this season I found it really hard work.”
Contemplating whether to stay another season, the element of family was a big deciding factor.
“I’d like another year,” Gibson said. “My mom had two falls at Christmas and is 95 and I’m thinking, ‘Alright, am I gonna do another season and risk not spending time with her?’”
Although it wasn’t an easy decision, Gibson felt like now was the right time.
“It was a tough call,” Gibson said. “People had always said you know when it’s time to go and it’s a bit like it’s not unfair on the players, I can’t give them what they want or what they need or deserve and the college treated us very well during the pandemic. It’s a lot of things.”
Gibson had been thinking about the idea of retirement for about a year before coming to the decision last week.
In addition to coaching, Gibson has been a professor of physical education at Springfield College for all 22 years. For the past several years, he has taught a single graduate-level class which people who are now coaches, staff and general members of the Springfield College community have taken.
“This is the slack time for me. I’m just teaching my class,” Gibson said.
This time of year really being the ‘off-season,’ as there is not much high school recruiting and still a few weeks before the team’s spring season, which Gibson will coach until the end of the year.
When looking back on his career there is a lot that Gibson will miss.
“The players, the games, miss watching them play,” Gibson said. “Day-to-day, fixing things for the next game, things that went wrong from the previous one or working on something different for the next game because of the opponent – I like that, I don’t like the training just to train like the COVID year, it was awful.”
For Gibson, it is hard to pick a favorite memory of his 22-year career as there have been so many good ones.
“It’s been very rewarding,” Gibson said. “Winning the conference four years in a row was fun, that year we won the quarters, the semi and the final off penalty kicks that was fun because of the way it turned out, it was stressful at the time, and some of the great goals we scored. 22 years is a long time, there’s a lot of things, the first time we won the NEWMAC that was great. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
When Gibson announced his retirement last week he was surprised by how many people reached out to him.
“I’ve been quite humbled by the amount of praise and things from colleagues within the NEWMAC and former players and colleagues around the college, that’s nice,” Gibson said.
Before arriving at Springfield, Gibson’s career had many stops including the University College of St. Mark and St. John in Plymouth, England, The University of Dayton, The Ohio State University and Marshall University. Gibson was the men’s soccer coach at Marshall University for five seasons, his overall collegiate career record was 301-180-58.
Sitting in his office, where the walls are covered in team photos, championship plaques and framed All-American and All-Region names, Gibson looks back on his coaching career and still has a souvenir from his first season as a head coach.
Kept in his desk, Gibson has the only copy of the media guide from his first game as Marshall’s head coach in 1989.
In terms of plans once he has retired, Gibson intends to eventually head back to Wales to spend time with his mother and other friends and family.
In Gibson’s final season, the Pride put together a 7-9-3 record but made it to the NEWMAC championship after winning at home in penalty kicks in the semi-finals – Gibson’s last game at Brock-Affleck Field.
“Don’t want to be that guy that hangs around too long,” Gibson said. “Mike Cerasuolo said, ‘Sorry to see you go but better to go a couple years too soon than too late’ and I took that to be a positive statement.”
Although there are still about three months until he has officially retired, Gibson is grateful for everything Springfield College and the game of soccer have given him.
“I love the players, love the program, love the college,” Gibson said. “The game, it’s been great, I’ve been really lucky to be successful and lucky to have good players, good assistants, and beautiful facilities.”
The College has not yet named the next head women’s soccer coach.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics