Unconventional coaching career leads former Fox Chapel soccer standout to hall of fame

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Saturday, May 27, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Mike Babst made peace with being done with soccer more than once in his life.

But circumstances kept the Davidson men’s soccer coach circling back to the game. When Babst took his first assistant coaching position at Washington & Lee in Lexington, Va., it was something he hardly scheduled.

Babst, a 1995 Fox Chapel graduate who will be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame June 3, was working a finance job in Chicago when he traveled to the Virginia school to see his sister graduate.

“It’s funny because the first coaching job I took was a little bit of a coincidence,” Babst said. “I went to my sister’s graduation and saw they had an assistant men’s coach (opening). I interviewed when I was down there and chose to leave finance.”

Babst, who was an all-section and all-WPIAL goalkeeper for the Foxes, didn’t really consider playing soccer in college. He wound up walking on at Boston College and making the team. He went on to become a three-time letter-winner for the Eagles.

“I was lightly recruited or not recruited at all,” Babst said. “I wouldn’t have known how to. At the time, if you didn’t play on the state cup team that went to regionals, you didn’t get much attention. Nothing came my way.”

Once Babst got into coaching, he never stopped climbing.

Babst served as an assistant at Duquesne, South Carolina and Northwestern before landing his first head coaching job in 2013.

When Babst took over at Chicago, he compiled an 87-23-12 record during a tenure from 2013 that saw him lead the Maroons to the Division III national semifinals in his final two seasons.

Babst became the head coach at Davidson, which competes in the Atlantic 10, during the 2019 season. Taking over at Davidson has been challenging, as the ever-changing college landscape with the transfer portal, along with the extra year of eligibility from the covid-19 pandemic, has presented many challenges for coaches.

The Wildcats, who finished 6-8-3 overall and 3-4-1 in the Atlantic 10 last season, don’t have the NCAA Division I maximum of 9.9 scholarships a year available to them.

“We were trying to help guys move on because we don’t have grad school,” Babst said. “We were also trying to get 18-year-olds to play against some 24-year-olds that had the fifth year of eligibility. Since I’ve been here, we’ve only had one player transfer out.”

One thing Babst has enjoyed about the many stops in his coaching career is the network he has built.

“Coaching has always been about the relationships,” Babst said. “When I go to any major city up and down the East Coast, I have a pocket of people that I can check in and see how they are doing. It’s more than about the wins and losses.”

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