Respected for his knowledge of the game and admired for the care and compassion he shows for student-athletes, Chris Apple’s hiring as the fourth coach in the 23-year history of the Notre Dame men’s soccer program on March 3, 2000, was met with a feeling of enthusiasm and promise by those who know him best the players he has coached.
Apple, a four-year assistant under 10-year Irish mentor Mike Berticelli, assumed the head coaching position following Berticelli’s untimely death in January. Beginning his second stint as a head coach, but first in the Division I ranks, Apple has been a popular figure among Notre Dame players since his arrival in 1996.
Becoming head coach at Notre Dame is a perfect fit for both Apple and the surrounding community. It is a truly a dream come true for the Millersville, Pa., native who has come to appreciate the tradition of being at Notre Dame and the responsibility that goes with coaching its student-athletes.
“I am extremely grateful the University has shown the faith in me to oversee the Notre Dame men’s soccer program,” Apple says.
“I’m also honored to follow Mike Berticelli, who was my close friend and mentor. Mike’s contributions to soccer at Notre Dame, and to the game at large, have been immense. I’m thankful simply to have an opportunity to add to those.”
Apple has been an instrumental figure in the school’s recruiting efforts the last four seasons and a key to bringing some of the best national and international talent to the Notre Dame campus.
He played a major role in the signing of 1999 BIG EAST rookie of the year Erich Braun, a forward from Frankfurt, Germany, who finished third in the conference in scoring in ’99, as well as Andreas Forstner, a sophomore from Gerlinden, Germany, who ranked as one of the top first-year defenders in the BIG EAST in ’99.
Apple arrived at Notre Dame in the spring of ’96 following two seasons as head coach at North Carolina Wesleyan. While at the Rocky Mount, N.C., school, his teams were a combined 12-20-1 during the 1994 and 1995 campaigns. In his first season as a head coach, his team finished with a 5-10-1 mark and followed that with a 7-10 record in ’95.
In his four seasons as an assistant on Berticelli’s staff, Notre Dame produced a combined 41-31-10 record (.561) which included trips to the BIG EAST men’s soccer tournament each of his four years on the staff. His first season at Notre Dame featured the most successful season in Irish history, including a 14-7-2 record and a historic first-ever NCAA tournament first-round victory. The Irish finished 17th that season in the final Soccer America poll.
A standout midfielder at the University of Rochester, Apple led his team to three University Athletic Association championships and three NCAA tournament appearances during his four-year career. He was a two-time All-American at the school and three times earned all-UAA honors. In 1990, he was named the conference player of the year.
A 1992 cum laude graduate of Rochester with a bachelor of arts in German literature and European history, Apple played professionally in Germany for one year following graduation. He then served as an assistant coach at Harvard for one season in ’93 before taking over as head coach at North Carolina Wesleyan.
Apple played professionally in the United States for the Raleigh Flyers, holds a National Soccer Coaches Association of America advanced national diploma and a United States Soccer Federation “B” license.
Born April 9, 1970, he and his wife Melissa were married in May 1997 and reside in South Bend. She currently is a doctoral student in psychology at Notre Dame.
A Conversation with Notre Dame Men’s Soccer Coach Chris Apple
Q. Talk about the excitement and enthusiasm you feel beginning your first season at Notre Dame and first as a Division I head coach.
A. It’s really a dream come true being the head coach at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the best school in the country, and I?m one of the luckiest people in the world to have this opportunity to be doing what I love at the school I love. It’s funny because I really didn’t know much about Notre Dame five or six years ago. But in the time I have been here, I’ve come to know and understand what a special place it is. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to even believe that I’m here, that I?m the head coach, and that I have the chance to lead this team and really put Notre Dame on the soccer map.
Q. Describe how Mike Berticelli influenced your career as a head coach, your coaching style and what you’ve learned from him.
A. Having spent the last four years, learning from one of the best college coaches in the country, I can now take that knowledge and run with it. From Mike Berticelli, I learned the importance of patience and decision-making. We formed a great staff. As a young coach, I probably brought some enthusiasm and some excitement to the program, he was the steadying force, and that’s why we worked so well together. In terms of soccer knowledge in decision-making, he was one of the all-time greats in this country, he knew how to motivate players, how to get the best out of them and how to challenge them.
Q. Describe your coaching philosophy and what type of coach you are.
A. Soccer is one of those sports that’s a players’ sport, not a coaches’ sport. I like to think I’m the type of coach who empowers his players to have absolute confidence once the match starts, and that comes in the preparation before those games. During training, we teach our players and give them the tools to make good decision and have success. In soccer, there are no timeouts during a game. You only get one chance to make changes, and that’s for 10 minutes at halftime. So, its important that the players are prepared to make good decisions on their own during the game.
Q. Comment on the benefits of Notre Dame’s relationship as a member of the BIG EAST.
A. Being in the BIG EAST is definitely great for us. We have the opportunity to be in one of the top two soccer conferences in the country and, game in and game out, play against top 20 opponents in our conference. Connecticut, Rutgers and St. John’s are in the NCAA tournament annually. Right behind them, there are other great teams like ourselves, Georgetown, West Virginia, Seton Hall and Syracuse who are on the verge of making the NCAAs. Our goal is to be one of the top four teams in the conference and joint that elite level.
Q. Describe your long-term goals for the program.
A. The first step is to compete annually for a BIG EAST championship. The next is to be an NCAA tournament team on a consistent basis. After we’ve achieved those two goals, we need to shoot for national prominence and to become the next Indiana of the ’90s or the Virginia of the ’80s. The highest goal we have is to become prominent in the national arena. Over the next several years, I think that’s achievable. It’s a very high goal, but it’s also attainable.