Head Coach Mike Cannon enters his 25th year coaching for Bulldog women’s soccer as one of the winningest coaches in not only Truman history, but all of NCAA Div. II.
When Cannon began his career in Kirksville, he said he had no idea the opportunity would lead to one of the most gratifying aspects of his life. After his own run as a Bulldog from 1988-1991, Cannon picked up the men’s student assistant position in 1992. The next year, he was hired as the women’s interim head coach. Having never had a true coaching position or been involved in the women’s game, Cannon said he didn’t think he had a shot at the position — an interesting thought now, looking back on the last 25 years.
“I get to go out to coach and play the game that I love still with some great kids,” Cannon said. “I think I got really lucky I found something I loved when I wasn’t really looking for it, and it’s worked out pretty well.”
He enters this season with an overall record of 320-111-53, becoming the 8th coach to win 300 games in NCAA Div. II. Truman soccer has been in the GLVC for five years starting in 2013 after coaching five years in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. Cannon still has the most wins as any coach in MIAA history.
Cannon said these accolades are nice, but he attributes all his success to his players and the athletes at Truman State University.
“I haven’t scored any goals or made any saves, but it’s nice to have that steady success,” Cannon said. “It’s a huge tribute to the kind of kids we get at Truman. I think we have created a positive team culture that the kids like and buy into. We aren’t always the best team on the field in terms of talent and athleticism, but we created that intangible aspect and get it done.”
Under Cannon’s direction, the program has made 12 NCAA postseason appearances — including last year’s sweet sixteen appearance. The strength of last year’s squad earned him a new endowment as 2016 GLVC Coach of the Year after securing a regular season co-championship for the team.
Cannon said moments like the first NCAA tournament bid, winning the conference tournament in 2015 and making the conference tournament the last four consecutive years are always going to stick out to him. Despite all these successes, Cannon said he still has some unfinished business he’s itching to complete.
“As I get older, I think I appreciate it more,” Cannon said. “I’d still love to get to a final four or win a national championship — and it’s not that we can’t get there, but it is hard. There’s so many good teams, but I think we do pretty well for our size and funding and still being able to find success.”
Cannon said he has mellowed out throughout the years. He said he never utilized yelling as a motivational tool and though he might not have always had the best technical coaching abilities, experience has taught him how to take advantage of the strengths he does possess.
Cannon said his strength is creating team camaraderie by having a fun yet competitive environment. He said this has worked as his players have reacted positively.
Senior Caity Schmitt said Cannon dedicates his life to their team and truly created a family atmosphere. She said his experience as a player and long-time coach helps him to know what does and doesn’t work but that he’s never shy to try new things.
“Instead of screaming on the sideline, he’ll pull you aside and discuss a play,” Schmitt said. “This type of coaching approach works best with me and a lot of my teammates. He’s great at giving constructive criticism and is constantly encouraging us to be the best we can be.”
A testament to this can be seen by following the ‘Dogs outside the wins and losses column. Last season, the ‘Dogs were named the 2016-17 GLVC James R. Spalding Team Sportmanship Award recipients for women’s soccer. They also recorded an average team GPA of 3.40, earning the Team Academic All-GLVC Award.
Spending her fifth and final season with Cannon, senior Allison Lockett said she thinks the Bulldogs will be successful this season because of the winning atmosphere Cannon has created.
“He loves soccer and competition, which motivates us to work our hardest to be successful.” Lockett said. “He knows the game so well and teaches us day-in and day-out that with hard work and passion our team will go far.”
The Bulldogs travel to Ashland University at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 in Ashland, Ohio to start their season, with more action to follow at noon, Saturday, Sept. 2 at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio.