Former Raider finds success as soccer coach
It was a circuitous route to a coaching position at an NCAA soccer program, but Immaculata High School alum Todd Anckaitis found a way.
After graduating from Lafayette College in 1995, Anckaitis did plenty of different things to advance himself professionally before coming back to the sport he learned to love at IMAC – soccer.
Anckaitis worked in a management training program at a bank in New York City out of college while serving as an officer in the National Guard.
After five years at the bank and after talking to a high school friend – Megan Bechtold – he decided to transition back to athletics and work to coach soccer at the college level on the women’s side.
He earned his master’s degree in Exercise and Sports Studies from Smith College whose program was created to develop coaches of women’s collegiate sports and while there, was the assistant coach at Amherst College (Maine). He helped guide the team to the D III national championship in 2001.
He graduated and then became coach at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon and restarted the women’s program after it was in a long hiatus.
Then in 2005 he moved on to Swarthmore College where he has been ever since.
“Over the past 12 seasons, the program has won 147 matches and has produced a Rhodes Scholar, three Scholar All-Americans, four All-Americans, four Fulbright winners, 25 all-region athletes and more than 52 all-conference award recipients,” Anckaitis said. “In addition, the Garnet have won three ECAC championships, one Centennial Conference Championship, qualified for the conference playoffs nine times and have now made three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last three years going as far as the Elite Eight in 2015.”
Anckaitis is the program’s winningest coach with a 147-66-23 record and has seen his team ranked as high as No. 2 in national D III soccer polls.
“I'm busy recruiting top notch athletes and students as Swarthmore is historically ranked one of the top three liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Reports,” Anckaitis said. “The roster is from all over the country but I’m still waiting for my first player from Kansas.”
Anckaitis has been positively affected by many of the coaches who have worked with him over the course of his 25-plus years since leaving high school.
“All of my former coaches had an influence on me regardless of sport, but (former IMAC soccer coach) Frank Mazeitis was the most influential coach I've had and most positive role model as I developed as a player, person and now coach,” Anckaitis said. “I see him almost every time I come back to Leavenworth. He coached me as a youth player and actually cut me from my first travel soccer team at like 9 or 10 years old. But I worked hard and came back the next year and made his team.
“Then when my dad left Leavenworth and we moved to Germany, being overseas and playing/watching as a kid over there instilled me with an even bigger passion for the game. When we moved back to Leavenworth when I was going into 10th grade I actually chose IMAC because Frank was coaching there. When I decided to go into coaching Megan and Derek Mazeitis were really influential in making the transition with advice as well as just seeing peers that were doing it, enjoying it and having success at it.”
He went to Swarthmore with many goals in mind and he has made it happen.
“My goal coming to Swarthmore was to have our soccer program become as nationally prominent, as our school is known for its academics, but to do it in balance with a complete college experience,” Anckaitis said. “Not athlete first, everything else after that. I think we're well on our way and a national championship with a team full of future doctors, lawyers, scientists, CEOs, researchers and professors isn't outside of the realm of possibility.”
Anckaitis reflects well on his time at IMAC and was saddened by the news that the school was going to shut down at the conclusion of the most recent school year.
“Very hard to hear,” Anckaitis said. “I feel like part of my childhood just disappeared even though the friends and the memories are all still there. IMAC events were some of the reasons that prompted me to return to Leavenworth in recent years and allowed me to see a bunch of folks that I don't often get to see. People I miss.
“Lots of great athletic playing and coaching legacies no longer going to have young people being influenced by or following in an older generation of IMAC's footsteps.”
But his memories will last on.
“I remember all of the runs before and after practice from IMAC out to our practice field,” Anckaitis said. “Playing against the big boys and often dominating teams/schools that were much larger than us – they didn't have classifications back then for soccer. Specifically, a state tourney win against Shawnee Mission East and I think Blue Valley North. There was an infamous ‘pumpkin incident’ when the Leavenworth High athletic director wouldn't let us host a state playoff game at Ables Field when we were ranked third or fourth in the state because Leavenworth had a football game the following Friday and they didn't want us to ‘ruin’ the field.
“Practically all of the fall athletes helped throw pumpkins all over his lawn and almost half of IMAC should've gotten Saturday detention but only a few of us took the fall. We were the IMAC Breakfast Club. I remember all of the great guys and gals that I played with in soccer but also in basketball, tennis and golf. Fond memories, great times.”