As you walk through campus you occasionally glimpse the neon yellow bracelets sported by the PLU women’s soccer team and their coaches. They read, “I.D.M”, an acronym for head coach Seth Spidahl’s favorite phrase, “it doesn’t matter.”
Not the normal inspirational quote you would hear from a coach. Self-proclaimed as a not “warm and fuzzy” guy, Spidahl’s style has certainly made a different in his first season at PLU, bringing the team up from their 13 losses last season to only three this season. Good, but still nowhere close to the “national championship caliber team” he hopes to develop in the future.
Spidahl, an Anchorage, Alaska native, started soccer at 5. “It was a youth team, my coach was an ex con who needed community service hours. That was my first coach,” Spidahl says with a wry laugh. At 17 he had his first coaching job; helping a friend coach a U-12 boys team. Spidahl said this was when he realized that coaching was something he was “meant to do.” Clearly so, as he led the team to a state championship that year. However, he was not done as a player. Since college soccer was non-existent in Alaska, he came to PLU.
Spidahl quickly made an impact at PLU, playing around 90 consecutive games in his four years. Men’s soccer flourished those years; becoming conference championships twice and taking two trips to the NCAA tournament. While he stood out on the field, off the field Spidahl was more introverted. A science major with a biology/geology minor Spidahl admits he was “very shy and reserved” at PLU.
“I studied and played soccer, that’s it. I hung with my roommates, played intramurals and ping pong. I didn’t party, I wasn’t people-oriented” he says.
His focus paid off, Spidahl graduated with over a 3.8 GPA and joined a professional indoor soccer team, the Seattle Seadogs where he played for three years.
“It was an awesome experience” Spidahl says, he names winning national championship with them one of the best moments in his soccer career. After three years the league folded and so did the team. Since playing was no longer an option, Spidahl moved to coaching.
“I was already coaching several teams when the league folded, so I decided to a make a go of it” he says with a shrug. He is now the director for Washington Premier Futbol Club, the local director for Elite Clubs National League, head coach for the PLU women’s team as well as coaching multiple youth teams.
Spidahl’s love of soccer has translated into his personal life. Married with five children (four step-kids and one biological) he calls himself lucky that three of the five love soccer. Chris is a senior at University of Washington and plays for the men’s team. Nick plays for Wilson High School along with playing on a premier club team. Son Zach plays youth soccer and according to Spidahl is a fan of professional soccer, saying “he will get up at 7 am to watch games.” All the coaching responsibilities certainly leaves a small window for family time. Says PLU assistant coach Scott Halaz, “Seth loves his family, the minimal amount of downtime he has is spent with them.”
How has Spidahl transformed the PLU team into a contender for top five in the conference? “I expect a lot, I work hard, and I expect my team to as well” he says. Halaz agrees, “Seth is demanding of his players which usually helps to bring out the best in them.” Freshman Kailey Lyman says that Spidahl “has a great winning attitude and always expects nothing less than our best.”
Sports are seen as black and white. You either win, or lose. Ties are settled on the field, there is no compromise. Spidahl hopes to do more with the program than just win games.
“This program has more tradition and legacy than any in the conference. I want my players to leave this program as better people on and off the field and to have pride about the program they were a part of. That is the most important thing.”