When the opportunity presented itself, A.J. Barnold could not refuse.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job,” said Barnold, the first-year assistant men’s soccer coach. “When the opportunity came at a Division I school that has been so successful, I couldn’t say no.”
Prior to Lafayette, Barnold served as an assistant coach at Muhlenberg for two seasons and an academic advisor for the college.
“Here, coaching is my only job,” Barnold explained. “I can dedicate all of my time to coaching. At Lafayette, there’s more preparation that goes into each game, like looking at each opponent.”
His transition from a Division III program to a Division I school has not been difficult. Perhaps the most interesting part of the change has been that his new players are just a few years younger than him.
Originally, Barnold thought his relationship with players may be a bit awkward, but that changed when they were welcoming, eager to learn and treated him with the utmost respect.
Barnold is building his coaching repertoire after a decorated background as a player. He was a three-year starter at center back for Muhlenberg, earning All-Centennial Conference First Team honors his senior year. In 40 career starts on defense, he helped contribute to 19 shutouts.
“I try to bring experience from on the field and off the field,” Barnold said. “I try to bring what I learned as a defender and give a new perspective to the players. I can also relate to the guys, being a student athlete. For the new guys, it can be tough managing sports and academics.”
Players have already felt his impact as a coach both on and off the field.
“He’s been great,” captain Alec Golini ‘14 said. “He’s a really, really smart guy that connects with us. Since he’s only a few years out of college, he knows the situation that we’re all in.”
“He works his ass off and puts the time, preparation and effort forth. He’s always trying to help.”
Barnold has a strong work ethic in all aspects of life. While at Muhlenberg, he was selected to be on the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll and graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.
Before he began his term as assistant coach at Muhlenberg, he was an assistant at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. It was during that time he earned his Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Psychology from Temple University.
Thus far, Barnold has been pleased with Lafayette’s play. Currently, Lafayette is sixth in the Patriot League with a 2-3 league record and 4-3-6 overall.
He acknowledges that Lafayette must improve on execution, which can only improve through playing more games.
“As a team, we obviously need to continue the success we’re having and take it a step further to make an impact on a national scale,” Barnold said. “I want to offer whatever I can from experience and hard work to help the program be successful and pick up where the coaches left off.”