After a storied 30-year career at UNC Pembroke in which he transformed the men’s soccer team into a legitimate contender at the conference and regional levels, Mike Schaeffer announced his retirement from coaching on November 5.
Schaeffer, who joined the UNCP athletic family before the 1980 season, said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including his mother, wife and 12-year-old son. His retirement will be effective on May 31, 2010.
“I anticipate being able to spend a lot more time with my son, Ethan, and helping him continue to develop as a man, and I look forward to being able to visit my 85-year-old mother in Spartanburg on a more regular basis, as well as enjoying more time with my wife at her parents’ place down at Ocean Isle.
“Coaching is a very wearing vocation, but one that has brought many rewards,” Schaeffer said. “I have very much enjoyed working alongside the numerous coaches at UNCP, as well as members of the athletic department staff, that I have had the opportunity to call colleagues over the years,” he continued. “I owe a lot of gratitude to (former athletic directors) Lacey Gane and Ray Pennington, as well as Dan Kenney, who recruited me to be a soccer coach at UNCP back in 1980.
“I am also grateful for the tremendous help that I have had from my assistant coaches over the past decade and a half - David Mallick, Chad Griffin, Chris Little, Eric Alsop, Marco Genee, Ray Fumo, Jan Wachsmuth and Chad Steuck. I would not have lasted this long without them.”
With more than 225 career victories as a Brave, Schaeffer concluded his stellar coaching career with a 231-242-35 record. He has taken three teams to the NCAA postseason, including the 2004 squad who advanced to the Final Four. Schaeffer ranks 16th among active coaches in the NCAA. He had 13 winning seasons, including the 2003 club that posted a 17-1-2 mark.
Schaeffer coached five all-Americans and 35 all-conference performers. Two of his athletes – Stephen Ademolu (2001) and Christian Staackman (2005) – won the Peach Belt’s Freshman of the Year award.
Twenty-six of his players earned all-PBC tournament laurels. His players won 30 PBC Player of the Week accolades.
Off the playing field, Schaeffer’s teams were just as successful with four players earning academic all-America laurels and three others taking home academic all-region honors. A total of 58 players were named to the PBC’s Academic Honor Roll and 23 of those student-athletes earning the league distinction in multiple seasons. Personally, he has received four Coach of the Year awards.
“I measure my success not only in wins, but by the kinds of people my players have become as alumni,” Schaeffer said. “I know that their experience at UNC Pembroke has contributed to their growth, and I hope that I have played some small part in their development.
“I will always remember Gonzales Suarez’s mom hugging his diploma on graduation day because I don’t think either she, or his dad, was ever really certain he would graduate from college,” he said. “Not only did he graduate, but he also became a 3.0 student. This is a kid who struggled before he came to college, and then he struggled during his first year here, but he became a secret student and got up at 2 a.m. to study when nobody else was awake. That is a success story.
“I’ve always tried to make sure players knew the right way to do things and the importance of trying hard and persevering,” he continued. “Our program has stressed winning, of course, but winning the right way and dealing with set-backs with class. Those types of things are very important and part of my memory in the last 30 years.”
In addition to his work with student-athletes, Schaeffer has also been heavily involved in both the professional and community levels as well. He served on NAIA and NCAA all-America committees and has been an integral part of the Lumber River Regional Senior Games. Although his schedule will free up quite a bit, the enthusiastic mentor already has some plans for his retirement as well.
“I am not ready to be a complete idler,” he said. “I am only 58 and that is a little too young to be completely retired.
“In the near future I’ve got a deck to repair, I’ve got painting jobs to do around the house, and you’d be surprised at how long a ‘honey-do’ list can grow over a 30-year span,” Schaeffer said. “I would love to come back to teach part-time in the future and will finally be able to get serious about my golf game.”