Yarborough leads Hatters into A-Sun Soccer Tournament

Earlier today, Stetson head men’s soccer coach Ernie Yarborough was honored as the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year. Yarborough not only guided Stetson to its winningest season in three years, but also to the program’s first conference tournament appearance since 2011.

Stetson opens A-Sun Tournament play on Wednesday when the Hatters face Northern Kentucky at 5 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn.

But Yarborough’s story is about more than just wins and losses and tournaments. It’s about an incredible drive, determination and perseverance. And it’s about how a rookie coach can change the culture of a program almost overnight.

Yarborough, a native of nearby Sanford, was hired on July 31 following the untimely death of former head coach T. Logan Fleck in mid-July. When the former Indiana standout and assistant coach for the Hoosiers was hired to lead the Hatters, Stetson had no assistant coaches, an uncertain roster and an incomplete schedule. And when he finally arrived in DeLand and began his duties as head coach, his players arrived over the next two days for the start of training camp.

“It has been a blur at times,” he said. “I arrived about 48 hours before the players did, so it was hectic from the start. I’m fortunate to have been groomed by one of the greatest coaches in the history of college soccer, Jerry Yeagley, so I was ready.”

Yarborough knew he had a talented roster, one which possessed a strong mix of returning talent and an influx of outstanding newcomers. But he had a limited time in which to meet the players, learn their names and faces, and implement a new system before they began playing games.

“We had a great system at Indiana and I’ve tried to bring that system here,” said Yarborough. “At IU we always did things the right way. There was a plan in place and as long as we followed it, the plan worked. So I didn’t change the model from what I know. We took the positive attitude the players had and put it together in a way that has allowed us to succeed.”

Stetson and Yarborough opened the season on August 29 against Elon and the Hatters came away with an impressive 3-2 win. But over their next seven matches the Hatters were just 1-4-2 following a loss at LaSalle. With the start of conference play just six days away Yarborough knew that, despite the results, the Hatters were getting closer to being the team he believed they could be.

“We were playing well even though we weren’t getting the results we wanted,” he said. “We had moments earlier in the season where some things didn’t go our way, but sometimes that’s just football. We had some conversations on the way home from LaSalle, individually and collectively. We were beginning to play together prior to UNF and it all clicked that night. I felt it was time to go out and show that what we were talking about was there.”

And clicked it did, as the Hatters routed the Ospreys by a 6-0 count. Over their next five matches the Hatters scored 17 goals and went 4-0-1. The Hatters – and Yarborough – had arrived.

Yarborough and the Hatters have succeeded this season in part due to what Yarbrough himself has learned during his many stops as an assistant coach.

“Any job you have, you learn things and take some of that with you,” said Yarborough. “I’ve been very fortunate in my career. Obviously Jerry Yeagley was a major influence on me as a player and a young coach, and so was Steve Burns at Michigan. We built that program from Day One in 2000, and four years later we played in a national quarterfinal. I learned a lot at UAB about how to be successful with less. And when I returned to Indiana I worked with a young, emerging head coach in Todd Yeagley. Now to do it on my own is very rewarding.”

One player believes bigger rewards are yet to come. Senior co-captain JJ Bostic recently praised Yarborough for transforming the program.

“He means a lot,” said Bostic. “It’s nice to have some fresh ideas in here. We didn’t have the best last few seasons, so to have someone come in with a new way to do things has been great. He’s a great coach and he knows exactly what he’s doing. The whole program has changed in terms of where we are now and where we are headed. There’s no doubt in my mind that the program is going big places.”


by Cris Belvin