One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for April 3, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
This concept on “A Friend of a Friend” I have is part of the “six degrees of separation” theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “friends of a friend” gets you connected to everyone in the world. I am quite convinced that in college athletics six degrees is not needed.
A friend I want to feature in my post today is Rich Posipanko who actually led me to a new friend named Phil Hindson. Both of those friends have given one of my sons Kyle Kenney a great gift by sharing their love of the sport of soccer with him. Each of them did it on a different level but they shaped his career path.
Rich is the Head Soccer Coach at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. Next season will be his 25th as head coach there. Prior to Winthrop he was the head coach at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.
If you know Rich you don’t call him by his first name you honor him by referring to him as the “Gaff” which is short for “Gaffer”. In English Soccer slang the “Gaffer” refers to the manager or the boss. Early in Rich’s career he had some lads play for him from England and the nickname “Gaffer” stuck.
When you coach at one school for 25 years you coach a lot of players and have a number of assistant coaches. The accomplishments of his players is amazing and it includes some pretty impressive stuff. During Rich’s 35 years as a collegiate head coach he’s had 152 All-Conference players, 61 All-Region selections, 14 All-Americans, four Olympic team players, four Freshmen of the Year, three Player of the Year, 34 Academic All-Americans, six national team members and a Lowes Senior Award Top 10 finalist and Walter Byers Scholarship Finalist. Also one Walter Byers Scholarship Winner. Over the years 14 of his players have also gone on to play in the professional ranks.
Rich is also a man who is very passionate about several causes. Some of them are personal especially the fight against cancer. Rich’s wife Gayle has had to battle cancer that led Rich to become an advocate for raising money in the fight against cancer. Rich with some great marketing events that has raised over $125,000 for the American Cancer Society over the past five years through the annual “Kicks Against Cancer Game”, “Champions Night” and “The Kickin’ It Challenge”.
Rich is also very dedicated to soccer and spends much of his free time trying to improve the college game and give back to the local community with many summer soccer camps and clinics. If you want to get educated on how to market and promote a camp or clinic Rich is your man.
It was in 1995 at one of Rich’s Soccer camp that my son Kyle who was just age 5 got hooked on the sport of soccer. Rich treated Kyle like a son and he nurtured a strong love of the sport. We moved away from Rock Hill in 1998 but Kyle was hooked on soccer. Rich in 35 years of being a coach has had his share of assistant coaches. One of his best was Phil Hindson who worked for Rich at Winthrop from 2000-2003. Phil would later touch my son Kyle in a different way.
Coaching Degrees of Separation
In the fall of 2009 I was still serving as Director of Athletics at UNC Pembroke when our soccer coach Mike Schaeffer told me he planned to retire at the end of the season. He didn’t want it announced until later in the season but I began to quietly explore and recruit potential candidates to replace Mike. It wasn’t going to be easy because Mike Schaeffer had been at UNC Pembroke for thirty years. He has taken three teams to the NCAA postseason, including the 2004 squad who advanced to the Final Four.
My professional responsibilities were just one part of the equation in finding a new coach. I also had a personal interest since my son Kyle was a member of the UNCP Soccer Team. He was finishing up his sophomore year and was trying to decide what his career aspirations would be. My professional obligations were the most important but as a dad I was hoping personally the new coach would be a good fit for him.
As I began the quiet recruiting process for a new soccer coach I had several conversations with Rich Posipanko and he told me about the current head coach at Clemson University Phil Hindson. Phil had been Rich’s assistant coach at Winthrop from 2000 to 2003. In 2003 he left Winthrop and went to Clemson as an assistant coach. In the summer of 2009 the long-time head coach at Clemson Trevor Adair resigned and Phil Hindson was named the head coach. Phil in 2009 knew if he wanted to could return to Clemson after his one year as head coach was completed. Clemson was doing a search and at the beginning of that process Phil was told it was likely they would hire someone from outside Clemson Coaching Staff. Phil’s professional instincts told him it was time to move on from Clemson after the 2009 season and look to become a head coach at a smaller university. Phil had told his friend and mentor Rich Posipanko what he was looking for.
Rich became my recruiter and eventually Phil and I had a conversation and visit that led him to becoming our head coach beginning in 2010. In 2012, the UNC Pembroke under Phil matched their third-best finish in 20 years (NCAA Division II era) with 12 wins and made history as the squad advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament for the first time in 10 years. The squad capped off the season with a 12-5-2 record and during the season reached as high as 15th nationally and second in the region polls. In 2011, the UNCP Braves posted the fourth-best finish in the last 20 years with 11 wins since joining the Peach Belt Conference.
In his time at UNCP, Phil has coached two CoSIDA Academic All-American, PBC Freshman Player of the Year, Golden Ball Winner, PBC Player of the Year, two Daktroncis All-Region and NSCAA All-Region players, 10 NCCSIA All-State players, five all-PBC players, five PBC all-tournament players, two PBC all-preseason players, nine PBC Players of the Week, 11 PBC all-academic team players and the team that garnered the sportsmanship award in 2011.
The spring of 2010 when Phil first arrived my son had come to the realization that his playing time future was not going to increase. He also had been approached by his new head coach Phil Hindson about becoming his student assistant coach. It was emotional for Kyle but he eventually decided to transition from student athlete to student coach. Phil was true to his word and totally immersed Kyle into the role of a coach. He gave him daily tasks included assisting the coaching staff with practices, filming games, recruiting and analyzing game film. His knowledge gained while playing on the field as a collegian helped him make the transition. Phil constantly bragged on how he was growing in his coaching abilities.
Besides his commitments at UNCP as head coach Phil also coaches the North Carolina ODP team. He has continued to mentor my son Kyle by getting him involved on that level. Kyle is the Head Soccer Coach at Cape Fear HS in Fayetteville. Photo below from his Kyle’s Cape Fear HS team first round NCHSAA State Tournament win in 201
Kyle is also involved with the Fayetteville Club Soccer due to his relationship with Phil and his current UNCP assistant coach Sean Brennan. The six degrees of separation had a surplus when it came to Rich Posipanko and Phil Hindson and my family.
I am glad that my son Kyle was only one degree removed from being personally influenced on the nuances of becoming a soccer coach.
(l-r) Phil Hindson, Dan Kenney, and Rich Posipanko