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Al Albert is Just a ‘Part of the Team’

Al Albert announced his retirement as head coach in January. See Tribe Sports press release.

Al Albert got his first taste of organized soccer during a gym class his freshman year at the College of William and Mary. That was in 1965.

Thankfully for Tribe soccer, that first taste developed a strong appetite.

Nearly 40 years later, Albert, a 1969 graduate, remains involved in soccer at the College—the past 33 years patrolling the sidelines as the men’s head coach. Today, the Williamsburg soccer icon finds himself among an elite group of NCAA soccer coaches. This past season, Albert notched his 400th win—just the seventh coach in NCAA history to hit that milestone.

But despite his accomplishments, winning isn’t the first word that comes to mind when players and coaches describe Albert. It’s integrity.

“I haven’t met anybody in the business who doesn’t like or respect Al,” said Chris Norris, who is Albert’s assistant coach and who also played sweeper for the Tribe in the early 1990s.

“He’s very driven to win but at the same time he doesn’t let that compromise his principles. I think the one thing that governs all of his decisions is what is best for the kids,” Norris said.

Al Albert delights more in team accomplishments than in individual accomplishments. Photo by Pete Clawson.

To read Al Albert's direct responses concerning his 400 wins, see Q&A with Al Albert.

For more information on the soccer program, see men's soccer on the Tribe Athletics Web site.

Related story: Debbie Hill profile: Women's volleyball coach has 500 wins.

 

Albert counts those relationships he’s developed with the players, including coaching his own son, midfielder Graham Albert (’04), among his top rewards as head coach of the soccer team—and a main reason that he has remained here.

“It’s just the quality of people we get to deal with,” Albert said. “Basically, the kids we have here are highly intelligent and highly motivated.”

A Baltimore native, Albert didn’t come to William and Mary to play soccer. In fact, he had never played soccer before coming to the College. He decided on attending William and Mary after visiting Williamsburg while on a family vacation. He liked the area—and the affordable out-of-state tuition.

“Not many people know this, but I played freshman baseball,” Albert said. “I had soccer in gym class my freshman year. My sophomore year I went out for the team. I didn’t have any experience with soccer before I came here.”

Albert played soccer again his senior year before graduating from William and Mary in 1969 with a degree in sociology. But his coaching career would have to wait. After graduation Albert left Williamsburg to teach math at a junior high school in his old neighborhood in Baltimore.

“I actually taught in the same school as my mother,” Albert said. “She taught geography, and we actually had home rooms next to each other.”

The next year, however, Albert returned to William and Mary as a graduate assistant to Jim Carpenter, who was the soccer and lacrosse coach. A year later, Carpenter left the College and Albert found himself head coach of both the men’s lacrosse and soccer teams—at the young age of 21.

“You don’t see that much these days,” said Albert, adding that he coached both sports for seven years before dropping lacrosse. “One of the reasons I got that milestone is because I got to start very early.” What followed over the next 33 years is also a rarity in college athletics. Not only did Albert stay in Williamsburg, along the way he collected six CAA championships, 12 NCAA tournament appearances and 29 consecutive winning seasons, which is currently tied for the fourth-longest active streak in NCAA Division I men’s soccer.

In fact, Albert is more proud of that streak than of his wins total.

“I’m more proud of that because that is a team achievement, and I’m part of that team,” Albert said. “To me, that says it a little more than 400 wins.”

by Brian Whitson

© 2014 The College of William & Mary