For nearly 30 years, head coach Van Taylor has been the face of the Lander University men's soccer program.
Now, the soccer stadium at Lander's Jeff May Complex will bear his name.
At their regular meeting in December, Lander's Board of Trustees gave approval to name the 550-seat facility the Van Taylor Soccer Stadium, in recognition of Taylor's three decades of service to the University's athletics program and its students.
Jack Lawrence, chair of the Lander University Board of Trustees, said the naming was an easy decision for the Board, adding, "Van Taylor is one of the most well-respected coaches in collegiate soccer, and he has been a positive influence on countless students and athletes at Lander, in the Greenwood community and beyond."
A special ceremony in honor of the naming will be held at the stadium in early September.
"When you think of Lander Soccer, you immediately think of Van Taylor," said Lander Athletic Director Jeff May, calling the honor "most deserved." "It has been my good fortune to have Coach Taylor as a colleague and friend as he has built Lander into a national soccer power," May added.
Taylor joined the Lander Athletics family in the spring of 1985, succeeding Bill Wynne, who headed the program for three years. A 1975 physical education graduate of Erskine College, where he was an All-American soccer stand-out and assistant coach, Taylor played 10 years of professional soccer in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). He was an NASL first-round-draft choice with the New York Cosmos in 1975, and runner-up for the NASL Rookie of the Year award in 1976. He was elected to Erskine's Hall of Fame in 1982. Taylor holds a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) "A" License and USSF National Youth License; a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Premier Diploma and NSCAA Advanced National Goalkeeping Diploma; and a Union of European Football Association (UEFA) "A" License.
Beginning with his first season at Lander, Taylor has worked to promote and advance the game of soccer on both the collegiate and youth levels.
In his 29 years at Lander, he has amassed an overall 382-157-32 record (.697 winning percentage), including nine NCAA Tournament appearances, two Southeast Region championships, seven Peach Belt Conference regular-season titles, four PBC Tournament titles, one NAIA Final Four and four NAIA District 6 championships.
His achievements on the field have earned him three Coach of the Year honors in both the Peach Belt Conference and NAIA District 6, and he has been named Regional Coach of the Year four times, including in 2013.
Taylor said his success is the result of the numerous individuals who have supported him, from the players, assistant coaches, athletic directors and university administration, to his family and members of the community.
"Proverbs 27:17 states, 'As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,'" he said. "A lot of people have come alongside of me and sharpened and encouraged me. We're all connected. When one enjoys success, it's not done alone."
Lander President Daniel Ball said part of the Board's decision to name the stadium after Taylor was based in part on letters of recommendation from Lander alumni and former athletes.
"As with all of his athletes, Van Taylor made a meaningful impact upon these students," Ball said, "and that's not surprising, given his talents as a coach and a mentor." Ball continued, "I have worked with Coach Taylor for 14 years. He is a model professional, and he has recruited excellent academic students who are also excellent soccer players. Together, he and they have brought distinction to Lander, both on and off the playing field."
Taylor earned his master's in education from Lander in 1990 and received certification in administration and supervision from Clemson University in 2003. Since 1980, he has managed Van Taylor & Associates, providing public speaking for businesses, church and civic groups, and high schools and colleges. He has been instrumental in contract development, coordination and marketing for numerous soccer camps and clinics at Lander, in Greenwood and beyond.
Taylor and his wife, Dr. Beth Taylor, head principal at Greenwood (S.C.) High School, are active in the local community and with their church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Greenwood. Taylor has been involved with Adopt-a-Highway, Special Olympics, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, prison ministries, and the local homeless shelter and food bank.
While the number of wins and championships under his leadership is quite impressive, Taylor said he hopes his legacy will be based more upon his impact on players than upon statistics. He regards the stadium naming as "the icing on the cake.
"It's a tremendous honor, and one for which I'm incredibly thankful," he said.