A new chapter of Cornell men’s soccer is beginning as head coach John Smith takes the helm of the program. Smith is coming off a National Championship season at Stanford, where he was associate head coach.
The 2015 season was Smith’s fourth with Stanford, and second as associate head coach. Smith helped lead the Cardinal to its first NCAA title in the program’s history after years of struggling.
“We just went ahead in trying to change the culture, to instill a culture that was conducive to success,” Smith said.
Smith perennially brought in strong recruiting classes and managed to put up a record of 50-20-11 during his time with the program.
“Last year, winning the National Championship and to be involved in that type of turnaround in the last four years … was special,” Smith said.
Prior to his tenure at Stanford, Smith was also a decorated coach in Division II, where he was the head coach of Incarnate Word and won 62 games in six seasons. Smith won three consecutive Coach of the Year awards in addition to three consecutive Heartland Conference Championships.
Incarnate Word was Smith’s first and only experience as a head coach before coming to Cornell.
“That was a great opportunity,” Smith said. “You feel the different pressure because it is certainly different when you’re a head coach. The buck stops with you, good and bad.”
Smith’s coaching career began at CSU Bakersfield as an assistant coach. During his time there, he helped bring the program a California Collegiate Athletic Association title.
The city of Bakersfield is commonly given a bad label, according to Smith. However, he feels that the challenge of building a program there helped him as a coach and more importantly as a recruiter.
“You have go into San Diego or Los Angeles and ask them to go to Bakersfield — and we did,” he continued. “I learned how to sell and really build up a program.”
Smith’s recruitment experience at Bakersfield transferred over to Stanford, where he was in charge of recruiting the championship lineup.
At age 16, Smith began his soccer career as a member of the Wigan Athletic Football Club’s first team. Afterwards, he was with Oldham Athletic Football Club for one year where the team advanced to the semifinals of the league cup.
“I left school when I was fifteen and a half to join Wigan Athletic,” Smith said. “The great thing about that is that you’re living and breathing the sport.”
By 1993, Smith decided to move to the United States to play soccer at Rollins College. During his collegiate career, the Englishman was a two-time All-American and broke the program’s record for points with 142.
With great success at the college level, Smith was drafted by the Columbus Crew with the 13th overall pick in the 1997 Major League Soccer draft. Smith never reached the top league of the MLS, and played a couple years in the A-league representing three different teams. From 1997 to 1998, Smith led the Nashville Metros in points.
Now, Smith will start a new chapter in Ithaca leading the Red in this upcoming soccer season. With a men’s soccer team which did not see much success last season, Smith finds himself in a similar situation to when he came to Stanford.