An assistant coach isn’t quite mentioned when looking at the success of a team. More often, the contribution of the head coach and the work ethic of players is what steals the spotlight.
However, the Montclair State University men’s soccer team attributes a lot of their success to the lustrous mind of assistant coach Marlon Pollard.
And Pollard’s motive to continue to be a coach is simple.
“It’s something I just love doing,” Pollard said. “It doesn’t feel like a long time. To me, it seems like five or 10 years but I just look forward to every new year of coaching.”
Pollard, at the start of this season, entered his 20th year as an assistant coach for the team. A lot of the talent seen today can be credited to Pollard due to his Hall of Fame midfield command at Montclair State from 1995 to 1999. He was an All-American selection, with perhaps his best award coming in 1999 when he was selected Montclair State’s Senior Athlete of the Year.
Pollard’s dominance holds him in the top 10 all-time in assists with 24, and 20 goals to go along with that. He applauds the support of his head coach back then, Rob Chesney, now the athletic director of the school. During Pollard’s time as a player, Montclair State played in the NCAA Divison III tournaments in 1996 and 1998 as well as ECAC Metro championship games in 1995 and 1997.
The midfielder was labeled “one of the top three players in the history of the program” by his coach. Now, Pollard uses that same level of support for his group as a coach. He recognizes how delighted he’d be to coach the player that could break his own records.
“Hopefully someone can break my records,” Pollard said. “Records aren’t meant to be up there for so long. We have a lot of great players and I know eventually one of them will break it.”
The talent selected for the prominent group is kept in proper conditioning by Pollard, but it’s the top-class game-planning of head coach Todd Tumelty that adds to the win column. The Tumelty and Pollard reign started in 2011, when the two led their group to a 19-win season, reaching an NCAA Division III “Final Four” appearance.
Between 2014-2016, the men’s soccer team won two New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championships in beatdowns against Rowan University and Rutgers University-Camden. That time around, the team developed midfielder Lucas Terci, whose 63 career goals made him number one all-time in goals scored for the program.
The history of developing elite players is recognized by both coaches, but Tumelty said the prioritization Pollard has on fitness is what gets the whole team running.
“[Pollard] teaches you that fitness is a big piece of the game,” Tumelty said. “It just gives more confidence and with that, you play better.”
The incoming freshmen get no days off either, as Pollard quickly recognizes how the 17 or 18-year-old players need to match up against older opponents that are much more trained. Tumelty was once coached by Pollard, and he shared the challenges he faced his freshman year and how Pollard helped guide him to peak success.
“He told me to stay the course and get bigger and stronger,” Tumelty said. “I did and got the opportunity to play for three straight years and become captain of the team in .”
The athleticism of the team helps their play style turn into the nightmares of their opponents. From possession, forwards runs and counterattacks, the team thanks Pollard for the extensive hours of training and dedication to keep a tactic that’s always found success for Montclair State.
Another important piece of the puzzle for the Red Hawks is sophomore midfielder Owen Murphy, whose control of the game at his position is why the team starts him in just his second season. He emphasized to his group how the previous playstyles must be held intact.
“We play the style that Montclair State has always played,” Murphy said. “When you are playing for coaches that have been successful, you listen. They just have a formula to winning. We just want to build on that and continue the legacy they’ve left for us.”
Pollard assures he won’t be in his position for his entire life, but he hopes his impact as a coach and player is remembered. He does not have more left to prove to the program, but he aims to continue his dedication and smile through it all.
“Remember me as a passionate person,” Pollard said. “I want to see the whole university succeed. Montclair State gave me a better life and made me the person I am now.”