When Jim Evans joined the Men’s Soccer program in 1986, he was stepping into his first head coaching job after spending ten years as an assistant. Although his seven seasons on the Terriers’ sideline came with a lot of success on the field, what he got most out of his time at Thomas was the process of being a head coach. “Everybody wants to win on Saturday,” he says. “Thomas College is where I learned about the daily process of what we needed to do in order to be at that level.”
That process wasn’t just about what they did on the field, but in the classroom and the community as well. “If guys missed class and I found out about it, I would bench them for the next game so that they knew this wasn’t going to be just about soccer,” he recalls. “My first guys at the College are in their fifties now. I have seen how they’ve done in their lives, and it has been very rewarding. They always bring up that the soccer was great, but they are really grateful that they were pushed in the classroom as well.”
Jim took that philosophy with him to his future destinations. He spent 12 seasons as Head Men’s Soccer Coach at the University of Hartford, where he accumulated the second most wins in program history and led the Hawks to three NCAA Division I Tournament appearances. He also coached at Simsbury High School in Connecticut for two seasons as the Girl’s Head Coach, then coached eight total years split between the Men’s and Women’s programs at Hendrix College in Arkansas.
After his work with Hendrix, Jim was looking for the right opportunity and returned to Thomas College. “It turned out in 2016 I needed a job, so I called and left a message for [Head Women’s Soccer Coach] Deb Biche-Labbe,” he remembers. Jim came aboard as Associate Head Coach for the Thomas College women that year, then added the same title for the men a year later. Most recently, Jim has become an assistant coach for the Track and Field teams as well.
Jim has embraced the freedom that comes with being an assistant coach working under strong head coaches. “I do what I’m told; I’m the assistant. I’m working for three really top coaches,” he says. “This role gives me a chance to pull a player aside if I can see that they are struggling and try to help them just by giving them someone to talk to.” He also has been able to spend some time working on mental toughness training with his student-athletes. “From the neck down is really important, but from the neck up is 80% of it; so, it’s been nice to be able to do that, too.”
Another bonus to his new role is the opportunity for him to work with Thomas College students once again. “We have a lot of first-generation college-goers that have to work all summer and work while they’re here. I really enjoy them because they are down to earth.”
Jim feels that attitude is what makes the Thomas College community unique. “The professors prepare students for their life after Thomas,” he says. “When students graduate, they’re ready to work. They know that if you put the work in and you do the job, you’re going to get rewarded for that. That’s a tremendous lesson.”
The process that Jim learned back in his early days at Thomas continues to be the center of his work with student-athletes today. “We all want to win, and we all want to get a 4.0 GPA,” he says. “But, what do I have to do today to make that happen? That entails goal setting and time management. These are skills that are going to help in every aspect of life.”
This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2020 Thomas Magazine.