Head coach John McNichol’s past, present and future with Wilkes women’s soccer


Women’s soccer head coach John McNichol may be one of the newer faces on the coaching staff at Wilkes; however, he has been involved and intertwined with the Wilkes-Barre area for a long time.

McNichol grew up in the Philadelphia area and is a graduate of the Colonels’ cross-town rival, King’s College. He happened to meet his wife while in college, and stayed in the Wilkes- Barre area due to her familial ties and career opportunities. These elements resulted in McNichol’s desire not to leave the area.

“I grew up in the Philadelphia area in West Chester, and went to King’s,” said McNichol. “That’s where I met my wife. Her family was up here, and she got a job teaching chemistry at Meyer’s High School right out of college. She had a really good job, and I knew this area would be home for me.”

In his senior year at King’s, he was asked to be one of the coaches for a summer soccer camp at Bucknell University. From there, McNichol realized that his true calling was to be a coach, despite his previous career interests.

“I was always around coaching. That week long camp at Bucknell made me think, ‘Hey, this is something I could do long term,’” said McNichol. “That’s when I got the offer to be a grad assistant, as long as I kept up my academic work. I absolutely fell in love with it.”

McNichol always had the notion that he would end up in a coaching position, he just did not realize that he would end up at the collegiate level.

Even through his early schooling days, McNichol always debated whether or not he would want to go into teaching or business. He seemed to find out that coaching is a mix of both.

“Growing up, I was always torn between business and teaching, and to be honest, coaching is a blend of both,” said McNichol. “I was a marketing major. I think with marketing, it associates with the recruiting side of things. Coaching is teaching. This is my career, and I could not think of a better job for me. I absolutely love it.”

McNichol started his coaching career at Pennsylvania Tech College in Williamsport, Pa. When he got this opportunity, he did not relocate his family closer to where he worked because he knew that he wanted to stay local to the Wilkes-Barre community. In his heart, he knew he would eventually end up at Wilkes University.

“When I got my first full-time head coaching job, it was at Penn College, and I was driving an hour and a half one way to get there because I knew I wanted to be back in this area,” said McNichol. “I always had my eye on Wilkes. I felt that every couple of months, there was something new that Wilkes was doing. On top of the great majors we had here, it was always something I kept my eye on, and fortunately when the job opened up, I was able to get it.”

Despite the postponement of the Fall 2020 season due to COVID-19, McNichol has enjoyed the extended “time off,” as he has been able to spend some well-needed quality time with his 3-year-old son.

When McNichol’s son was first born, he was still coaching at Penn College. He spent three hours a day commuting to work. He felt this put an emotional toll on him from missing out on some key moments of his son’s early days.

“We have a son who just turned 3 last week, so he has taken up a lot of time,” said McNichol. “It has been really nice these last couple of months, as rough as it has been being home, it was really nice to see him everyday and make up for that time we lost. It’s really hard when you are in season – it’s a lot of late nights and long weekends. I know when he was first born, I was driving three hours a day to get to-and-from work.”

Even with the delayed start of the season, McNichol still finds ways to keep himself occupied with soccer. The team has recently been cleared to begin preseason training outdoors while wearing masks, ensuring social distancing and in small group pods.

“This past week, we were able to begin training as a team. We are starting to take things week by week and seeing how things are going,” said McNichol. “We have been social distancing with masks on, but it has been great to be getting together – getting outside in small groups in different areas of the field. Some people are seeing each other more than others, but we are very fortunate to have that.”

Pod and masked formatted practices have their frustrations, but the safety of the players has been the sole intention.

“Practicing within our pods and with masks on has had its difficulties, only because we of course all miss being able to practice all together, but overall everyone is super happy to even be on the field playing soccer in small groups,” said senior defender Niamh Harkins.

The delayed start to the season has not only allowed the players time to physically prepare for the upcoming season, but it has also allowed them to train in ways they have not previously experienced.

“The delayed season has allowed me and the team to get extra training in, lifts in and film sessions that normally we would never have gotten the chance to do,” said Harkins. “Overall, we have been given the opportunity to get better and further our skills, speed and strength so that we will be more prepared for the spring then we could’ve ever been in the past.”

The benefits of additional training time should present themselves in the upcoming season, as the Colonels are looking to avenge their semifinals loss from last season.

McNichol started his career at Wilkes three years ago, but his impact and coaching style has proven to touch his players.

“I’ve loved playing for Coach McNichol these last three years,” said Harkins. “He came into the program and really helped me improve my soccer game, confidence and leadership skills. He not only is a great coach but a great person who supports us and is there for us in every way possible.”

McNichol has found himself excited to come into work throughout the entirety of his coaching career due to the amount of inspiration he gets from his players.

“We have a great group that works really hard and well together. They make my job very easy – I love coming to work with them everyday,” said McNichol. “I can’t think of a better place to be in my life right now. I hope to continue this for the rest of my professional career.”

As the weeks go by and there are less COVID-19 cases among athletes, the sports teams are gaining more normalcy in respect to the busy lifestyle they are accustomed to. McNichol and his roster are no different, as they will continue to adjust and prepare for the possible soccer season in the spring.