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‘Cats Corner: Hall of Fame inductee Mike O’Malley

Kenta Mcafee

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Mike O'Malley before his resignation as Chico State's men's head soccer coach. Photo courtesy of Mike O'Malley

Mike O’Malley, men’s soccer head coach from 1996-2007, has been inducted into the Chico State Hall of Fame for his dedication as both a player and a coach. As a player, O’Malley succeeded in leading the Wildcats to consecutive West Regional titles in 1971 and 1972. As a couch, he had a record 117 wins at Chico State, the second most in the program’s history, and finished his career with a 155-129-16. During the 2003 season, he was awarded the National Coach of the Year award, after leading Chico State to its first national game.

What was your experience at Chico State like being the head soccer coach?

For me, I moved here in 1986 from Cleveland, Ohio, and did it with the intent of coaching the soccer program here. I had coached at the Division I level at the University of Washington, and I coached at the professional level both in Cleveland and in Pittsburg. I always wanted to come back to Chico State to coach— it was like a mommy calling her baby home.

What was it like coaching the men’s soccer team?

It was just one of those things, it’s like it was in my DNA. It was where I was supposed to be. The nature of the athletes that Chico State attracts was a perfect match for me to be able to coach them. Soccer attracts, especially back in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, soccer attracts a special kind of an athlete. I would say it attracts, I mean historically, a little bit more of a rebellious quality in the athletes. When I played here, we all knew we were good athletes but we all had a little bit of rebel in us as well.

Do you ever miss coaching soccer? Being the head coach?

I don’t miss it at all. Part of the reason I got out of it was the players that were coming out of the program were a little different than they were in the past and I’m more old school. I think if you’re going to deal with young, student athletes, you better be ready to modify your approach from time to time if you want to be effective, and I was certainly willing to modify my approach. I am very close to the athletes with which I’ve worked— it’s all about the relationships. As you get older, you’ll find out it’s all about the relationships, and I have a very strong relationship with a lot of the athletes that I’ve coached in the past. I wasn’t getting the same feeling from the athletes that were coming through the program in my last couple of years coaching, so I really feel like it was time for me to leave. If I were to miss anything about coaching soccer, it would be the relationships.

What was your reaction when Chico State said they want you in the Hall of Fame?

I’m so honored and blessed it’s unbelievable. I wasn’t that great of a player, I pretty much taught myself the game. I didn’t kick a soccer ball until I was 16 years old, but it’s a sport that I used to play in high school. I went out for soccer my junior year simply because I just wanted to stay in shape between football and track with a winter sport in high school, and I ended up just falling in love with the game.”

How much of an influence do you think you had over these guys lives? Do you feel like you were a key factor in elevating them to the next level?

I don’t think you can help but influence them. It’s not just coaches, it’s anyone who works with students or athletes at that particular age, from 18 to 22. I think you are even if you didn’t ever say a word to them, just by the nature of your presence, you will influence them one way or another. I like to think that perhaps my influence was more of a positive influence than otherwise, but I think I did and in my communications with my former players, they tell me I did. So I guess ill have to believe them.

Kenta McAfee can be reached at [email protected] or @Kentamcafee on Twitter.

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‘Cats Corner: Hall of Fame inductee Mike O’Malley