Mr. Steven McCarthy is a new addition to DePauw University as the new Men’s Soccer head coach. He comes to DePauw with a wide array of experience and accolades in coaching, from Southern Polytechnic State University to Loras. He wanted another challenge and a new journey, and his opportunity with the Tigers was the perfect choice.
McCarthy grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and was born and raised in Centerville. He attended Archbishop Alter High School. For university, he went to both Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio University. He had a stint professionally with the Columbus Crew and the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL (United Soccer League).
His passion for soccer came from a very young age. He’s a big fan of Columbus Crew because he was born and raised in Ohio. They were one of the first professional teams in America, and he’s been going to those games since they started in 1996. He’s also a massive fan of Manchester United because, as a young player, there wasn’t that much soccer on TV. Still, if someone was going to be on TV in the late ‘90s or early 2000s, it would be Manchester United because they were one of the best teams in the world at that time. McCarthy’s favorite players for Manchester United were Roy Keane, Van Nistelroy, and Wayne Rooney, and, for the Columbus Crew, Brian McBride.
McCarthy recollects when he started playing and how his young energy fueled his passion for the game.
“I started playing soccer when I was four years old. I played many sports like any other kid, but soccer stuck out. I think I’m a very energetic kid, and I don’t sit still well. I have memories of playing baseball and thinking this is boring. I think soccer fits my energy level, and I naturally had some success. And developed a passion for it as a kid.”
As McCarthy grew older and attended university, he had his stints professionally. It was during his time playing for the Dayton Dutch Lions that he unfortunately got hurt. McCarthy told me how this painful moment eventually became a gift in disguise in his passion for the game, which blossomed into coaching.
“I was lying on the couch after I got hurt, thinking, what do I want to do? I had a college degree, but do I want to enter the workforce? My degree was in business, but I had a passion for soccer. So, I took an opportunity to go coach. I found love with the coaching aspect of it. I always had a love for the game.”
At the same time, McCarthy says how the correlation of growing up with hard-working and education-oriented parents caused him to not only enter coaching in university but also to look at coaching in a different light –– not playing to win, but working to help people.
“I love soccer, but coaching the student-athletes here is not just about being their coach. You are a mentor first like I’m here to help them be better in all facets of life: academic life, social life, sports life, personal life… I’m here to help them with all that, so I think that’s where I’ve been able to have the meaning and fulfillment part of my job, and I get to do what I love when it comes to this sport.”
Before coming to DePauw, McCarthy began coaching at Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia for one year as a graduate assistant coach. Later, he worked with Loras for two years, where he furthered his success in coaching. In 2021, he kept his team second during the regular season, won the conference tournament, and earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Championship, where they topped North Central (Ill.) He didn’t stop there, however. In his final year of 2022, he led them to an ARC regular season championship and was named the conference's coach of the year.
Apart from all these accolades and a resume of success, McCarthy spoke about how his transition from player to coach wasn’t as straightforward as most people might think. He had to overcome many trials and tribulations to make that switch from player to coach.
“There are two things that stick out from going to playing to coaching. One was being fortunate to be a good player. There were a lot of things that came naturally to me in trying to teach aspects of the game that came easy to me and that don’t come easy to others. Like having to break down the actual skill of something instinctive for me and having to think about how to break this down in the simplest to teach it to someone who doesn’t know. That takes time, it’s challenging and hard to do.”
McCarthy adds that another transitional difficulty is connecting with each player and making sure you acknowledge their worth and value.
“The second thing that’s different is as a player, you are concerned about yourself and want to be a good teammate and help the team out. But as a coach, you have to be able to relate to all your players, not just some guys you’re close to on the team. Something I still do now is I try to focus on getting one coaching to play at least a week to like every single player . . . so that they know that I’m paying attention to them and I’m here to help them.”
Turning the page from Southern Polytechnic State University and Loras, McCarthy, now at Greencastle as head of DePauw’s Men’s Soccer program, is eager to get started. After the first five days of preseason, he saw significant growth in the team from where they were last year to now.
“The first four or five days are always tough preseason. You’re evaluating your players, you're evaluating their fitness levels, and you're trying to teach some stuff. It’s very tough on them physically and mentally, so we had a very tough first four or five days. . . .We had some recovery days and things like that and got ready for Saturday, our last preseason match; the progress I saw from our first five days to where we were on Saturday was great. We saw good progress, and yesterday another step forward, so every day we take a step forward and the path we’re on.”
In addition, when asked about his new vision for the DePauw soccer program, McCarthy was truthful in what he wanted to see from players coming into the new season.
“For me, it’s all about recognizing and setting the standards. You can go back and look at the men's soccer program . . . I look at that as the standard of the program, and making sure that we, as the coaches and as the players, live up to that standard is important. As a team, we came together, and we developed values and standards that we collectively believed in. . . . I’m pushing them to a level maybe they didn’t know they could reach is part of coaching, seeing more in them than maybe they see in themselves but knowing how to get them there.”
McCarthy also stressed the main goals that the team wants to hit this season: championships, championships, and championships again.
“My overall arching goals for the program is that we should always be competing for championships and making the postseason . . . Still, I think we can be a program that is competing for championships every single year, and that’s kind of my overarching goal and vision for the program.”
When thinking about the DePauw and Greencastle communities, McCarthy said nothing but positive things, such as appreciation for kindness from the community. He can’t wait to see the support for the DePauw Soccer Team this season.
“Since starting in January, I’ve appreciated how welcoming the community is. It’s a very friendly place, very welcoming, and everyone says hi, so it’s been a very easy transition for me and my family. We love the community support, and I think we will put DePauw soccer on the map; it could be something the local community can come out and watch. It’s going to be entertaining; we’re going to come out and score goals. Our games will be exciting, and it will be a good environment for the family to bring some of the youth players so they can see some high-level soccer.”
Apart from McCarthy, I also spoke with Joel Thompkins, a senior who currently plays out wide as an outside winger and midfielder. Thompkins grew up with soccer and adored Neymar even before the hype and rave when he was still at Santos. In terms of a club, he follows Manchester City because he loves the playing style of Pep Guardiola, his energy, and the way the players react on the field.
Thompkins spoke about his experiences with the soccer program at DePauw during the pandemic, combined with poor results in the seasons that Thompkins has played. This caused a loss of motivation for many of the team, but the new head coach has brought hope back.
“Everyone knows we started with Covid our freshman year, so we didn’t have a fall season. We weren’t able to achieve or accomplish what we wanted to accomplish. . . I haven’t had the greatest of experiences with the soccer program here. I’ve tried; it’s been very hard mentally. I would say that this new coach that came in has brought a lot of light to a lot of the players here, and you could see that a lot of the players gaining their lust for the sport, their motivation.”
From the first impression of the new coach, there’s nothing but positive feelings and all-out excitement from Thompkins. He feels the team has a unique vibe and an energy that will help them going forward.
“He just comes in with energy and passion, and I love it. . . . Still, he came in with just this insane amount of energy, like the dude just had a baby, and his wife is in hospital, and he’s downstairs sitting in the lobby doing an introduction meeting with us after getting hired. I mean, he’s freaking awesome. . . . I think he’s turned a lot of heads; he has everything that needs to be done and implemented to create a great program for the future, at least in my opinion.”
Thompkins also spoke of the changes the coach is making, from setting standards that the team has to take seriously to making hard decisions from cuts to benching senior players..
“I’m a person who believes in pure honesty, and I feel like if the coach is honest with you, then you always know what you're going to get . . . I think the idea of cuts has been something that has needed to be done for the program. . . . It does suck, I feel for them, but I think he’s doing it for the benefit of the program. In terms of benching, I think he’s doing it based on what he thinks will allow the team to win. He’s stressed that multiple times, and I think a lot of guys on the team can see it as well that he wants to play the best players on the field; he wants to win.”
Thompkins believes “wholeheartedly” in the new coach, and there is a unique change with McCarthy as the new head coach. As the Men’s Soccer Program opened their fall season in an impressive fashion thrashing Wilmington during Saturday’s game with a score of 4-0, the DePauw Tigers are undoubtedly off to a strong start. So, come on out DePauw Tiger’s to Reavis Stadium and watch all season long as the soccer team plays their attacking and fighting style and make us all proud.