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John Conlon ’97 pours himself into coaching soccer and his student-athletes much like he did when he played the game himself at Hope College.
In many ways, the Flying Dutchmen’s new soccer coach is the same man driven for competitive excellence who came to campus nearly 30 years ago with lofty aspirations.
In many ways, Conlon also is a different man, a leader who’s evolved through his years as a successful high school soccer coach and fifth-grade teacher and keenly appreciative on the transformational experiences athletics can provide.
In the latest Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Conlon discusses, with sports information director Alan Babbitt, what he is bringing back to his alma after after being introduced earlier this month as Hope’s 10th men’s soccer coach.
Conlon returns to campus after becoming one of the most successful boys and girls soccer coaches in Michigan High School Athletic Association history. He guided the East Kentwood boys teams to a Division I record five state titles. He totaled a combined 674 wins in boys and girls high school soccer.
Learning from the best
“When I was a young coach like 23 to 27, I didn’t quite get it. I understood coaching. I was learning coaching, but I didn’t understand the impact coaches have on players,” Conlon said. “I studied guys like Tom Izzo, I was a fiery guy, too, but his guys love him. Mike Krzyzewski is another one that I absolutely learned everything I could about the way he does things. Nick Saban, some of the great coaches, I just studied the way they did things. That changed my mentality and changed the way I lived and died with every second of every day. And it’s made all the difference.
“I’ll be honest, my greatest accomplishments are not championships. It’s the guys who’ve graduated, the guys who have gone on and are successful, the guys who are having kids now. That’s what means the world to me.”
As a student-athlete at Hope, Conlon started as a midfielder for four seasons for the Steven Smith-coached Flying Dutchmen soccer team from 1993-96. The Flying Dutchmen went 60-12-6 during that time and advanced to the national quarterfinals in 1994.
He helped Hope three-peat as Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions during his senior, junior and sophomore seasons.
Conlon was voted as the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player for the 1995 season by the league’s coaches. He was selected to the All-MIAA First Team three times (1994-96). He totaled 36 points during his career with 18 goals and 18 assists. He received National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-America honors and was a three-time NSCAA all-region selection.
Conlon graduated from Hope after majoring in both psychology and communication.