When Trent Rickard was choosing where he would be playing soccer at the collegiate level, his mind would always go back to The Master’s University.
Growing up in the Santa Clarita Valley and being a 2023 graduate of nearby Hart High School, it only made sense that he would choose to attend the college that he was so familiar with.
“I think just being familiar with everything was a deciding factor,” Rickard said. “I have a lot of friends going here, but the biggest was definitely just the school’s intentions. I know that they prioritize teaching you about Christ and helping you grow in your faith. And there’s not many schools, especially these days, that do that.”
Oh, and there’s one more reason that made it an easy decision.
“Playing for my dad, not many people can say they did that,” Rickard said.
Trent’s dad, Jim Rickard, is about to enter his 33rd year as the head men’s soccer coach at TMU. Counting his four years as a player for the Mustangs and one year as an assistant coach, Jim has been involved with Master’s soccer for 38 years.
As for why he’s stuck around for so long, Jim’s reasoning is very similar to his son’s reason for choosing TMU: A love for Master’s and what it stands for.
“I think the reason I’ve been here so long is because I love the college,” Jim said. “I love what it stands for and I love the impact that I can have on the student-athletes, people that are coming from their homes and maybe not really totally understanding their own faith, growing in the Lord here.”
Jim was a standout defender for the Mustangs after graduating from Richland High School in Washington, helping the team to 57 wins and two NCAA national championships. He was named and NAIA All-American and an All-Far West conference selection in 1987 and 1989 while picking up Defensive MVP of the 1987 NCCAA National Tournament.
As a coach, Jim has racked up 360 wins, good for 12th all-time and second for active coaches in NAIA men’s soccer history. The Mustangs won national championships under his stewardship in 1993, 2001 and 2007.
Trent wasn’t too bad himself as a senior this past season for Hart, recording 23 goals and 10 assists for the Indians, including 16 goals in 12 Foothill League games. According to Jim, Trent could have had his pick of schools to play at, but Trent was always thinking about Master’s.
“I honestly didn’t really pursue anything else once I figured out I wanted to come here early,” Trent said.
That doesn’t mean that his dad didn’t at least take a couple of calls from some interested coaches.
“(Coaches) would see him and they would text me,” Jim said. “And a lot of that was sort of after he made a commitment to me. There was some stuff before. So, I was like, ‘Well, he’s committed.’”
Those calls would always end the same.
“’Oh man, just if anything changes, let me know,’” Jim recalled the coaches telling him.
While Trent has always sort of known that his path would end up at Master’s, he made his final decision after his dad coached his club team, Pateadores SCV, for the past two years. Both years, the team, made up mostly of Santa Clarita Valley soccer players, made it to the national championship in Denver but came up just short.
During that time, Trent learned first-hand what kind of coach his dad is. Coupled with knowing what kind of father Jim is, Trent’s decision was made.
“When I was younger, I was set on coming here,” Trent said. “And I think early high school, I didn’t want to go somewhere else, I was just kind of seeing what the options would be a little bit. But when he picked up my club team, I think that was the biggest deciding factor. I saw how he was a coach and I loved it, and I don’t trust any other coach the way I trust him. So, I figured four more years of him would be perfect.”
Trent played pretty much anywhere across the forward line for Hart head coach Gio Salinas, but he believes his most natural position to be as a center attacking mid, pulling the strings of the offense and setting up teammates. Some of the players from the professional ranks that he’s looked at to emulate are Arsenal’s Martin Ødegaard and Paul Scholes, who helped lead Manchester United for well over a decade.
He also looks at a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, a legend for both Manchester United and Real Madrid, for his mentality, always looking to find a way to get better. Outside of soccer, Trent tries to emulate Michael Jordan’s mentality.
With athletes like those as his idols, it’s no wonder that Trent sees big things in his future.
“I expect high things,” Trent said. “I feel like in order to be successful, you have to hold yourself to a very high standard. So, I want to be the best I can, obviously, and be as helpful as I can for the team.”
That doesn’t mean that he’s expecting to be handed the keys to the team right away. Trent knows, and Jim has reminded him, that he has to earn his spot.
I’m willing to play on the wing, up top or drop back a little bit, just really whatever he wants me to do,” Trent said. “I’ll trust it. I’m aware I still need to earn my spot. I don’t come here with a spot given.”
Jim is excited to see what Trent ends up doing at Master’s. He knows that with the number of options that soccer players have these days — there was no Major League Soccer when Jim was coming out of Master’s, and Americans were not recruited to Europe as they are now — that Trent has the opportunity to make a name for himself.
But even if things don’t work out, Jim just wants his son to have fun while the ride lasts. Trent is studying business management at TMU, which will leave him with no shortage of options after college.
“If the opportunities are there and he has the ability, he has the desire, he has the opportunity, then he’s free to take it,” Jim said. “If he doesn’t, that’s OK. Our identity isn’t in him being a professional. It’s about him loving the Lord.”
The Master’s University men’s soccer team is scheduled to open the season on Thursday, Aug. 31 at home against Fresno Pacific University.