Many players have been brought to University of Findlay through their love and dedication to the sport of soccer. Two of those players have an interesting history that progressed from supporting the same team as players and assistants at UF to, after becoming Oiler alumni, coaching different high school teams in Michigan that just happen to have a healthy rivalry going way back in years. For UF alumni Robert Anderson ’13 and Mitchel Cousino ’14, the head coaches of the boys soccer programs at Monroe High School and Bedford High School, UF laid a foundation of hard work and respect – characteristics that the men utilize and work toward instilling in their respective teams.
Anderson and Cousino first came to UF at different times, yet under similar athletic circumstances, both having started playing club and travel soccer from a very young age before success in high school. They also each learned of Findlay through people in their lives, Anderson through an assistant coach at UF who had watched him play club soccer, and Cousino through a club teammate, Shane McGee, who was a freshman at UF at the time. Both men saw it as a good opportunity to play and work under a seasoned and knowledgeable coach in longtime men’s soccer head coach Andy Smyth. “From a soccer standpoint I had a great working relationship with Coach Smyth, and our core values and coaching styles really worked well together,” said Anderson.
When the pair were together at UF, Anderson was a graduate assistant coach and Cousino, a player. They’re both quick to remember each other’s value to the team, and, as past teammates tend to do, both have a mutual respect for the other’s abilities, athletic strategies, and philosophies. “Very positive, self-motivated, and talented,” said Anderson of Cousino. “He showed a lot of leadership qualities that really impressed me and fully translate to his coaching style now.”
That feeling is mirrored in Cousino. “[Anderson] was a great mentor and definitely helped develop me as a player and as a coach. There are many drills that we did at Findlay that I do with my players at Bedford today,” he said.
With their minds pointed toward their future success, both men saw themselves as coaches in some capacity going forward; subsequently, they soaked up the education in experience outside of academics that surrounds UF students. Both secure in their academic pursuits at the time, the men also worked toward forming relationships and structuring their lives efficiently at UF. Anderson and his wife Elizabeth (Hillmann) Anderson ‘11 are Findlay Faithfuls, having met on campus. He formed relationships, as well, working as a security officer on his way to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and now, a career as a Michigan State Police officer. “Many of the things I studied while [at UF] directly correlated to success in finding and excelling in my current career,” Anderson explained. “Working as a security officer for those two years gave me valuable experience and a chance to work with some great guys with varied law enforcement and military backgrounds.”
Cousino’s career working for Lowe’s began as soon as he graduated, also with a criminal justice degree, and he currently oversees five locations. Another ambition happened immediately upon graduating, as well, he said, and that was coaching. He initially took a role with UF as the reserve team coach – the same position Anderson held after his playing career at UF – and then at Bedford, where he’s been since. As a graduate of Bedford High School himself, Cousino said that what used to be a “battle,” one that had yellow cards and red cards galore, has simmered down a bit as far as dispositions go. Regarding the desire to notch another win against a longstanding adversary, though, is a different story. “I can only speak for Bedford,” Cousino said, “but I know that when my players see Monroe as our next game, that is all it takes for them to be ready. No pregame speech is necessary. They just know they need to go out and win the game.”
“It’s a hometown rivalry between two close high schools where the kids often grow up playing soccer together and know many of the other players from the other school,” Anderson added. “Mitch and I being old teammates and friends just added an interesting dynamic to an already heated rivalry.”
Cousino, who will celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife Allison in September of 2021, said that the friendships he made at UF – including his friendship with Anderson – are, perhaps, of equal value to the education and direction he and other students receive as Oilers. Through the progression of their meaningful lives and productive careers, staying in touch seems to be among the most important goals for alumni. “We all move apart but that is what makes our time together so special when we connect at weddings, alumni games, or just when we meet up to hang out for a weekend,” Cousino said. And he and Anderson know that when “the game” comes around on their soccer schedules, it’s yet another opportunity to properly catch up with a fellow alumnus, and even spend some time reminiscing over their time at UF. “We don’t talk weekly or even monthly,” he said, “but we always catch up pre-game and post-game regardless of the outcome,” Cousino added.
“We both know each other’s backgrounds and understand what we both are trying to do with these coaching positions,” continued Anderson. “Since Mitch and I have begun as coaches at Bedford and Monroe respectively the programs have seen a boost and it seems there is a lot of enjoyment for where we have each taken the teams.”
Sometimes, when people have familiar past experiences, and certainly when they share an alma mater, there is a certain understanding that transcends any sort of animosity. It’s a good thing that’s the case for Anderson and Cousino, whose respect for and support of each other in life and in soccer, takes a temporary back seat when the whistle blows on rivalry game day. When the game is over, however, they’re still UF-educated men and graduates, well-prepared and equipped to take whatever their side’s outcome happens to be and do what is necessary to improve themselves and their teams as a result.