Bryn Athyn soccer programs have family atmosphere

Bill O’Neill is leading the school’s men and women soccer programs to successful seasons.

Bill O’Neill has both the men and women soccer programs at Bryn Athyn moving forward. PHOTO: BILL O’NEILL

It can be tough going from coaching men to coaching women.

Some coaches struggle with making the switch, but Bill O’Neill has no problem with it.

In fact, he does it just about every day.

O’Neill is the head men’s and women’s soccer coach at Bryn Athyn College, and he coaches both teams during the fall season. It keeps the coach on his toes, but so far he’s having very little trouble.

“It really helps that the games are almost always back-to-back, and that makes it special because the two teams support each other,” O’Neill said. “It’s a great job. I love it because I’m coaching two great teams of players who really love to play soccer.”

While coaching both teams isn’t unprecedented, as there are other coaches in the Northeastern Athletic Conference who pull double duty, it’s not an easy task.

Luckily, O’Neill comes with a strong resume.

During his high school days, O’Neill was a star at George Washington High School, winning two Public League championships, and he was the player of the year during his senior season in 1987.

He then went on to play for Rowan, where he helped his team with the Division III national championship. He was also a four-year starter and two-time captain.

He also coached various club teams in the area, and later served as an assistant coach at Holy Family for three years.

“I learned a lot there, especially that I loved coaching college soccer,” O’Neill said. “When I was given the opportunity at Bryn Athyn, I took it because it was really exciting. It’s a small school, so everybody knows each other and it’s a very close-knit community.”

That’s how the coach likes it.

It’s also how the players like it.

Rachel McCabe, a sophomore midfielder, decided to play for the school because she liked how everybody at the school seemed to be friends with each other.

It didn’t just appear that way.

“The soccer team is great, but the whole school is great,” said McCabe, a William Tennent High School graduate. “We play doubleheaders, so when we’re playing, the men’s team watches us, and when they’re playing, we watch them. It’s a great environment, not just for soccer, but the entire school.”

She’s also happy with her coach.

According to McCabe, coaching a men’s team is different than coaching a women’s team, but she believes O’Neill has found the perfect formula.

“It’s a very similar coaching style, he just needs to be slightly different because men play faster and at a more skilled level than our women’s team,” she said. “He takes that into consideration from our style of play to theirs, but that is the only difference in his coaching with our two teams. Otherwise, he’s the same guy.”

The men feel the same way.

“It’s going great, everything about playing for the school is great,” said Chris Mitchell, who graduated from Franklin Towne Charter. “It’s the perfect school for me, it’s close so people can come out and watch, and it’s a great school. I love it.”

The school is behind its Lions, and the teams are rewarding their loyalty.

The men’s team is perfect through two games this year. The women’s team has won all three of its games.

The coach has a lot to do with that success, but he is quick to point out this isn’t a one-man job.

“The big thing is having great assistants and I do,” O’Neill said. “If I didn’t have them, sometimes I’m tied up with one thing, and they’re able to do everything a coach would do. There’s no way I could do this without help.”

The players are also happy for good assistants.

“The entire staff is good,” Mitchell said. “Everyone works together. It’s why we’re such a close team. And it’s not just the men’s team. The women’s team helps us, and we try to help them. It’s like we’re one big team, we just play in different games.”

O’Neill hopes this camaraderie continues.

He also hopes to keep the wins coming.

Bryn Athyn, a private college in eastern Montgomery County, is one of the smallest schools competing in the NCAA, so building a winning program can be trying. According to the NEAC website, the school has 300 students, but the good news is thus far, a lot of them can play soccer.

“I’m happy for the opportunity because I love being around soccer and it’s fun to watch what we’re doing,” O’Neill said. “The players are working hard, we’re having fun and we’re representing the school. I’m having a great time.” ••