Earlier in the season when asked head coach Damon Rensing was asked about getting his 100th win as a head coach at MSU he said “it’s just another win.”
But that’s who Rensing is, a coach that never puts his personal feats in front of his team or players.
“I love the fact that I can help players improve, put a team together and I really like the tactical side of things,” Rensing said.
If anything, Rensing said his 100th career win will make him reflect on his time here as a head coach at MSU.
“One of the reasons I don’t think about it too much, because it’s really not an award for me,” Rensing said. “You think about how many people are involved to make that happen whether it's support staff, the administrators, obviously a ton of great players.”
Rensing has been at the helm of the Spartan men’s soccer program for nine years, accumulating a 99-59-24 record throughout his head coaching tenure with MSU. He’s taking the Spartans to six NCAA Tournaments, including two appearances in the Elite Eight in 2013 and 2014.
Rensing’s career at MSU however didn’t start on the sidelines, but in between the lines. Rensing played at MSU from 1993-96, accumulating 14 points from five goals and four assists with being named to the All-Big Ten first-team his senior year.
Not many former players get to come back and coach where they played and that can be a tool for possible recruitment.
“You’re not selling something you don’t believe in,” Rensing said. “I believe in Michigan State University, I believe in the athletic department, and I believed in the soccer program since I came in 1993. So when I’m talking to recruits, or when I’m trying to explain things to my team or my staff, they know that I firmly believe that this is what I think is best for our program because I’ve lived, I’ve been in their shoes.”
This translated to forward Hunter Barone, who’s one of four Barone brothers that have played for Rensing, who said Rensing understood the importance of keeping players connected to supportive atmosphere.
Rensing would become Baum’s assistant in 1999, after spending 1997 as an assistant on MSU women’s soccer team under current head coach . Rensing then spent 1998 as an assistant on the UNLV women’s soccer team, under former MSU women's assistant Staci Hendershot.
Rensing would eventually become Baum’s associate head coach in 2004 before taking over the program in 2008, with Baum at his side for two years.
Baum said he came to Athletic Director Mark Hollis with the idea to name Rensing head coach and have Baum be an assistant for two years, so he could ease his way into retirement.
“I knew he was ready,” Baum said.
How did Baum know Rensing was ready? Well really, it was four simple reasons.
“Number one he has a great soccer mind, number two he’s a real people person, I think that’s probably more important than the X’s and O’s,” Baum said. “Number three, a great recruiter, and he’s just an all around hardworking, wonderful person that people kind of gravitate towards.”
Rensing said he learned all of these skills from Baum and “really appreciated being around Joe” to learn from him.
“He was such an excellent communicator and motivator,” Rensing said. “I learned some X’s and O’s, but the way you communicate, the way you have a culture, the way you respect people, those things I actually think are sometimes more important in the coaching profession.”
Baum said when looking at all four reasons, it was a can’t miss situation to have Rensing replace Baum as head coach.
Rensing has always had a passion for soccer, and knew once he wasn’t going pro that coaching was his next step.
Rensing said his passion and skills at coaching developed over time.
“I think like anything else, you don’t know if you’re going to be good at something until you get into it,” Rensing said. “I knew I had a good understanding of the game, thanks to a lot of coaches that coached me, including my father and my youth coaches and Joe.”
While Rensing learned from Baum, Baum said he also learned from Rensing after coaching side by side with him for 10 years.
“It was a mutual sharing of information, sharing of knowledge and approaches,” Baum said.
Rensing laughed and said “I don’t know what I taught Joe.”
Rensing said, however, he “maybe taught” Baum how the game was evolving over time and how to approach things differently, given that Rensing is younger.
“Back when you’re a younger assistant, you can spend 18 hours a day on soccer,” Rensing said. “It’s harder to do with a wife and two kids. These younger guys, Cale and Ben, keep me fresh.”
While Wassermann and Pirmann are keeping Rensing fresh, Rensing is keeping this soccer program fresh with his success, whether he admits it or not.
“I think Damon is going to be here for a long time, I think this program is going to be highly successful for a long time,” Baum said. “I’m just pleased for Damon.”