It took Coach Melvin Belong two seasons to bring Bethel University its first National Championship in any sport, and along with it -- instant national recognition. Coach Belong is entering his fifth season as the Men's Soccer Coach at Bethel University. In his first season, the team finished with a 10-8-1 record, and in his second season, the team went on to achieve the monumental accomplishment of winning the university's first ever national championship. The team finished with a record of 17-5-2. During this run, Bethel did not allow a goal for six straight matches and ended the year on a 14 match unbeaten streak.
The 2008 season was a truly historical season for the men's soccer program and for Bethel. Followed by the highest ranking the school has ever experienced as the number one team in the nation, Coach Belong also mentored the National Tournament MVP, Mario Vila Boa, the All Tournament Team and Second Team All-American, Felix Obilo, and Honorable Mention All-American, Massimo Collu-marchese.
As the architect of one of the most improbable runs to the 2008 National Championship title, Coach Belong was named NAIA BRINE National Men's Soccer Coach of the Year. Coach Belong was also named NSCAA Adidas NAIA Men's Soccer Coach of the Year and NSCAA Adidas Mid-South Regional Coach of the Year. Coach Belong was also honored with another special award preceding the season; he was selected as Coach of the Year by the University for the 2008-2009 season.
Prior to taking over the reign as the Men's Soccer Coach, Belong spent five years as an assistant coach with the Bethel University Lady Wildcat Soccer Program, In his five seasons with the Lady Wildcats, he helped the team qualify for the NAIA National Tournament for three consecutive years: in 2003, 2004, and 2005 with an "Elite Eight" finish in 2004. As the recruiting coordinator, Coach Belong recruited two honorable mention All- Americans in Alicia James and all time goal scorer for the women's program, Leah O'Grady. During the 2003 season, under Coach Belongs tutelage, Patience Opara, became the first athlete in schools history to earn the title of First Team All-American. Over the five year period, the team compiled an overall record of 86-20-5.
Before joining the Lady Wildcat soccer program, Coach Belong worked as an assistant at Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky., helping direct their 2000 men's soccer team to the NAIA Region XII finals.
As a native of Suriname, South America, Coach Belong was a member of the U-18 National Players Pool. Belong played collegiate soccer at Oklahoma Wesleyan University for two seasons before transferring to Bethel University for the remainder of his colligate career. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bethel and received a Master's degree in Education from Bethel University in 2003. As a coach, Belong holds a NSCAA Premier Diploma. He is on the coaching staff of The Tennessee State Olympic Development Program and player development in West Tennessee. He also is the Head Coach of the Jackson Wolves U-12 Boys Team, in Jackson, Tennessee. He is the Director of Octagon Soccer Academy, and he conducts several soccer camps during the summer. In addition to English, Coach Belong is also fluent in Dutch.
In 2009 the Cats went undefeated in the regular season, capturing the TranSouth regular season championship. Bethel finished the season 15-2-3.
This past season the Wildcats went undefeated in regular season conference play with a 7-0 mark The Cats won the TSAC tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NAIA National Tournament before losing a heartbreaker to the University of Mobile. Bethel finished 14-6-1 on the year.
In 2010 four Wildcats were named to the NAIA All-American squads. Felix Obilo and Joseph Omondi were selected to the first team while Mario Vila Boa was named to the second team. Dawyne Smith was named to the honorable mention team. Fifteen team members were named to the TranSouth Conference All-Scholar squad. Three Wildcats, Dawyne Smith, Mario Vila Boa, and Chaz Dachenhaus were named to the NAIA All-Scholar team.
Coach Belong resides in McKenzie, TN with his wife, Carol, and two sons, Melvin, Jr. and Melic.
Malang J.J. Jarju is in his fifth year with the Wildcats of Bethel University. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Bethel University in 2008 and his Masters Degree in Education this year. He is a native of Banjul, Gambia in West Africa, where he attended Nusrat High School. Jarju played for both the junior and senior national teams of Gambia. He was a member of the Bethel University Wildcats from 2003 to 2007. He owns the record for goals scored in a career at Bethel College at 56. He also holds the record for points in a career at 151 and assists in a career at 39. He was named All-TranSouth Conference first team, All-Region first team, and NAIA All-American Honorable Mention in the past seasons for the Wildcats. He is the first ever Bethel men's soccer player to have his jersey retired and hung in Bethel's Baker Fieldhouse.
As a coach, Jarju holds a U.S.S.F. C Certificate and a member of NSCAA. He is involved in a soccer Club with Jackson Wolves and player development in Jackson Tenn. and the surrounding communities and conducts several soccer camps every summer with Coach Melvin Belong.