In 1969, soccer was a newer sport in collegiate athletics. Opportunities for aspiring players were few and far between. But that year became a pivotal one for a young freshman from Vandalia, Ohio.
That year, Eastern’s men’s soccer team won the NAIA national championship, and that year, freshman midfielder Schellas Hyndman got to experience a national championship for the first time. It would not be his last.
“Back then, it was great to win, but I didn’t know how hard it really was to win a championship,” Hyndman said. “Now, however, I know how special a championship win is.”
Forty years later, as one of the most successful coaches in college soccer, and now as a head coach in Major League Soccer, it’s no wonder Hyndman understands what it takes to get to a championship.
Hyndman was recruited to Eastern in 1969 by then head coach Fritz Teller. The 23-member team “was really special,” Hyndman recalls. “They were good players that would be great by today’s standards.”
Skill, however, wasn’t the only thing that led the team to victory. Common affection for the sport and friendships among players helped the team gel and consequently propelled them into a winning season that culminated in the national championship.
Hyndman graduated from EIU with a degree in physical science in 1973 and earned a master’s degree in physical education from Murray State in 1975. He spent one season with American Soccer League and then traveled to South America, where he spent two years working with Escola Graduada de Sao Paulo and apprenticing with Sao Paulo FC.
At the urging of Coach Teller, he returned to Eastern in 1976 to complete a master’s degree in guidance and student counseling, with the possibility of taking over the position of head coach for the men’s team when Teller retired. Teller retired in 1977, and Hyndman took over as head coach. He recalls pacing the Library Quad thinking about how lucky he was. “It was my dream job,” he said.
His passion for the sport and his love of coaching quickly became obvious. Hyndman, to date, is the most successful soccer coach in EIU history, and in 1981, when Eastern soccer entered into Division I competition, Hyndman led the team to an unprecedented third-place finish in the national championships.
“That was one of the closest knit teams I’ve ever had,” he said. “There was so much pride on that team. It was indeed one of the most remarkable seasons in my coaching career.”
Opportunity quickly came knocking for Hyndman. He left Eastern in 1983 to coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. During his 24 years at SMU, Hyndman turned the men’s soccer program into a national powerhouse, winning no fewer than 10 games each season, with nine appearances in the NCAA quarterfinals, and two in the semifinals.
His cumulative career as a college coach earned him numerous honors, including fourth in all-time victories among Division I college coaches – he posted an all-time college record of 466-122-49, which includes a record of 368-98-38 at SMU and 98-24-11 at Eastern. He was named Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the first time in 1988, with eight more titles between 1997 and 2006. He was also a member of the NSCAA national coaching staff; served on the NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship committee; and, after serving as a member of the NSCAA Executive Committee for four years, assumed duties as its president from 2005-2006.
In 2006, opportunity came knocking again. Hyndman was offered the head coach position in MLS with the western conference powerhouse, FC Dallas. Now in his second year as a coach with The Hoops, Hyndman has reached his ultimate goal as a player and coach. The change to the major leagues was a bit of an adjustment, however.
“It’s definitely life in the fast lane,” he said. “There’s no down time at this level. You are always looking for the next player that will help the team. In college, you train for nine months to play for three. In professional soccer, it’s an 11 and a half month season with preseason practice, exhibition games in South America, regular season, travel to find players ... but it’s perfect because I love the sport. I’m really living my dream.”
Hyndman has seen and done much throughout his career. In 2007, he was enshrined in the Texas Credit Union “Walk of Fame” at Pizza Hut Park (FC Dallas’ home), for dedicating his life to soccer and for the contributions he has made to the sport in the state of Texas. He was inducted into the EIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. He credits his alma mater for who he is today.
“The best memories of my life are at Eastern,” he said. “Of all the places I had to choose from, I could not have picked a better place. My heart is with Eastern because it gave me my start.”
Living in the Charleston community as head coach for EIU men’s soccer, Schellas Hyndman’s own son needed opportunities to play the sport. With none available, Hyndman and a few of his friends got together and created the Charleston Soccer League to give area youth opportunities to learn and play competitive soccer.
Today, the league is still around and continues to have ties to Eastern. Spearheaded by EIU head coach Adam Howarth and assistant coach Dino Raso ’92, ’93, Eastern’s soccer programs play an integral part in community youth development through soccer.
More than 25 student athletes from the men’s and women’s teams volunteer each fall and spring to provide coaching to area youth in weekly sessions. The league also employs many of these student-athletes as coaches for the league’s more competitive club.
Student coaches hold weekly practice sessions and travel with the teams to regional games and tournaments.
The relationship has bridged the gap between town and gown and has created life-long friendships between league participants and the EIU student mentors who coach them.
• These stories originally appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Old Main Line, a magazine published for members of the Eastern Illinois University Alumni Association.