Less than six months after announcing its foray into intercollegiate athletics through a basketball program, Spurgeon College unveiled plans on Nov. 11 to field men’s and women’s soccer teams at the school.
With collegiate facilities now in place on campus and with the hiring of a head coach, the process of forming men’s and women’s soccer teams is fully underway.
In October of 2018, Midwestern Seminary’s trustees received plans from the administration to field sports teams at Spurgeon College through the NCCAA—beginning with basketball. This October, the school hired Matt Risher as head coach and informed the NCCAA of the school’s intent to field men’s and women’s soccer teams.
“We are thrilled to announce the addition of men’s and women’s soccer to the athletic program at Spurgeon College,” said President Jason Allen. “Several factors, including the initial success and strong community interest in our Knights basketball program, have weighed heavily in our decision to add these new teams to our sports programs. Each will bring a unique and valuable contribution to our campus community.
“I am also very pleased to introduce Matt Risher as the program’s head coach. After conducting a thorough search for the right man for this position, it was clear that Coach Risher possessed all the attributes we desired in leading these teams. He is a young man with great personal experience at the Division I college-level. He also possesses energy, knowledge of the game, and excellent leadership abilities. Most importantly, he seeks to lead a group of young men and women to become passionate and effective followers of Christ. He sees soccer as an environment that’s conducive for discipleship.”
Risher has been a student at Midwestern Seminary for the past 2 years—graduating with a Master of Divinity degree and currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. However, prior to his time in Kanas City, he played college soccer at Marshall University in West Virginia and Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. During his college career, Risher scored nine goals and helped lead Coastal Carolina to two Big South Conference championships. In high school at Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw, N.C., he was a three-time all-state player, scoring more than 70 career goals.
“It is a tremendous honor to be named the head coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams. I am excited about the ability to impact Christ’s kingdom through the world’s most popular game,” Risher said. “My goal for the Knights is three-fold: Primarily, I am viewing this as a discipleship program. Soccer will be the instrument used to help mold and shape these young men and women into what God has called them to be in the future—namely faithful church members, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.
“Secondly, we aim to be a competitive program. The difference between high school and college soccer is huge. I look forward to the challenge of having a team that can successfully compete at this level. Finally, we aim to advance the kingdom of God. Soccer can be used as a platform to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ across the world.”
Risher added that he’s encouraged by the excitement and energy about the program that’s building around campus and said he senses that the program will provide the campus community an enhanced experience for students, faculty, and staff alike.
During its initial campaign, the two teams will play at the junior varsity level with a majority of the team’s competition being local and regional NAIA and Division II squads.
Risher noted that program planning, development, and recruiting are underway but in their earliest stages. He has also been spending time formulating the values and framework for the team, so that the players and assistants will know why they do what they do, and exactly how they are going to do it. This includes developing his coaching philosophy, the vision, the teams’ mission, as well as the offensive and defensive schemes.
From a recruiting standpoint, Risher said the process is underway with several prospective players visiting campus in the days ahead. He added there’s a specific type of player that he’s interested in joining the team.
“I am looking for high character young men and women,” he said. “We are trying to create a culture of excellence, and that will require people who come in ready to work. My coaching style is one that attracts players who enjoy a possession style of soccer. We want highly-technical players who can play quickly and want to score goals.”
The Knights will begin play in the fall of 2020 with matches potentially being lined for a September start. Matches will be played on Midwestern Seminary’s campus on the newly established pitch to the north of the Mathena Student Center. Risher hopes to have 12 matches for the inaugural first season.
Patrick Hudson is assistant professor of communications and history at Spurgeon College.