How many of you have ever heard of Messiah College? If you haven’t, you should have. This little college located in Mechanicsburg, PA has been the powerhouse of Division III soccer for over a decade. The Messiah Men’s soccer team has won nine of the last 12 Division III National Championships and have reached the final four in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Their nine national championships is a Division III record. Their program has produced five National Players of the Year, 27 All-Americans and have made it to the national tournament for 14 straight seasons and 22 of the last 29 years.
Those impressive numbers don’t just stop with the men. The Women’s program has been just as equally successful. The Women are coming off their third national title since the 2009 campaign and has made it to the final four eight of the last nine years. The Messiah Women’s program has 19 All-American honors which includes three NSCAA National Players of the Year. Even more stunning is that Messiah remains the only NCAA institution regardless of level to have won both the men’s and women’s national soccer championships in the same season. How has Messiah been able to create this winning tradition and what is it about their program that year-after-year makes them so dominate? To help answer these questions I went to former Messiah Men’s soccer player Derek Sipe who agreed to do an interview with Soccer Classroom.
Me: What is it about the Messiah program that has brought them to their recent winning tradition?
Derek: This is the question that everyone loves to ask, but is difficult to answer. It is one of those situations that you just have to experience in order to fully understand. However, there are several things that can begin to answer this question. First, is Messiah players and coaches willingness to work ridiculously hard for a common goal. The goal isn’t to win a national championship (although it is nice to do so), the goal is for Messiah to be the best place in the country to play college soccer. It isn’t any kind of secret formula to build a program with this type of success. The biggest factor is just a group of young men that all buy-into the program and are willing to do whatever it takes to leave the program in a better place then when they enter it. What makes Messiah different is the amount of work put in during the winter, spring and summer. It is easy to see the success in the fall each year and think that it is easy for Messiah players, but that is the furthest from the truth. Any team is capable of doing this, but few do. Messiah players work as hard during a sprint workout in July as they do during the 2nd half of the national championship game. We do this because if we don’t we know we are letting down our brothers on the team who are putting the work in. Messiah also focuses on bringing in the “right” kind of players. Sure the players are talented, especially as of late, but being a good fit to the team is more important than pure talent.
Me: Is there a relationship between the men’s and women’s teams that helps lead to the success of both programs?
Derek: Both programs share the same values, agreements and style. Both team invest deeply in team relationships. Both teams also spend a lot of time together and are each other’s biggest fans. There is definitely a sense from each team to make it to the final 4 so they can share that experience with the other program. I know the girl’s team talks a lot about tradition being only as good as the next generation. Year after year both programs continue to make final 4s and win national championships, but the hunger to do it the NEXT year is always there. Neither program is ever satisfied.
Me: If you could describe the Messiah Men’s soccer program in one world, what would it be?