This past spring, Mike Eckberg became the sixth head coach in the history of New Paltz women’s soccer. This is Eckberg’s first head coaching job on the collegiate level.
“I have a friend in coaching who notified me of the New Paltz opening. I sent in my resume and before you know it I got an interview,” Eckberg said. “I’m very humbled to have gotten this opportunity.”
Eckberg has been involved with soccer since he was a kid growing up in Minnesota. He stayed in the midwest part of the country during his college years, and attended Luther College in Iowa where he played center back for the men’s soccer team.
After college, Eckberg steered away from soccer and took a job in financial services. While working in the field, Eckberg coached club soccer on the side. After six years in the financial field, Eckberg got back into college soccer and became a graduate assistant at Southwest Minnesota State. Eckberg then left Southwest Minnesota and headed to the northeastern part of the country.
“Leaving Southwest Minnesota to be an assistant coach for Penn State women’s soccer was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made,” Eckberg said. “I had built a strong relationship with the head coach at Southwest Minnesota State and I felt as if I was letting him down and not being loyal to my commitment.”
The head coach of Southwest Minnesota State at that time was TJ Buchholz, who is one of Eckberg’s biggest influences. Buchholz is the current head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Toledo.
“I admire the way that Buchholz has taken over programs in the past and rebuilt them to be successful programs,” Eckberg said.
Buchholz believes that Eckberg will make a big impact on New Paltz women’s soccer.
“Mike has a lot of energy and passion that he brings to his teams. His teams play hard, they play smart, and they have great sportsmanship,” Buchholz said. “That is reflective of Mike and the genuine person he is to all that know him. I think SUNY New Paltz landed a gem in Mike as their new women’s coach.”
The one season Eckberg spent as an assistant at Penn State proved to be valuable as the team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Eckberg worked under another one of his biggest influences in his soccer coaching career in Penn State, women’s soccer head coach Erica Dambach, who is entering her 11th season as head coach and holds an overall record of 169-55-14 entering the season.
“Just seeing the success and the way Dambach leads the program has been influential for me,” Eckberg said.
Making the transition to head coach hasn’t been too difficult for Eckberg, largely due to the players.
“There have been positives to take away from the preseason for us, the team is very committed and have been very receptive of the information I am handing down to them,” Eckberg said.
Eckberg has been reiterating to the team that working on things such as training and conditioning before focusing on wins and losses is important.
“In the preseason, I’ve wanted the team to focus on training, lifting and conditioning before on-field results,” Eckberg said. “The preseason has been hard work in order to prepare for whatever happens in games during the regular season.”
Ever since coach Eckberg took over at New Paltz, he has preached a philosophy that he has passed on to the team.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said.