Former Columbus Crew assistant coach begins career at AU

Dean Paolucci, Reporter

Nick Roberts will take the reigns as the new head coach of the Ashland University men’s soccer team. 

The university announced the move earlier in May 2020, when former head coach Oliver Slawson decided to take on the associate head coaching job at Coastal Carolina University.

Roberts previously was at Urbana University, where he had been head coach since 2008. While at Urbana, Roberts was named the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 along with the Mountain East Coach of the Year in 2016.

Roberts also spent time as an assistant coach and head scout of the Columbus Crew for four years, a professional soccer club.

“[Nick Roberts] is respected throughout the country for what he accomplished at Urbana,” Al King, Athletic Director at Ashland University, said on the announcement of Roberts as the new head coach for the Eagles. “Nick is a thorough teacher, an exceptional communicator and coach who understands X’s and O’s. As a head coach he’s been known as someone who’s adept at developing the total student-athlete.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference suspended all fall sports competition until January 2021, a transition that Roberts found difficult.

“The transition was, as you can imagine, quite a roller coaster,” Roberts said. “I was very lucky in the sense that the timing of [getting hired] was right. Like anything, you just kinda roll with it and that’s what we have been doing.”

Prior to calling plays and making substitutions on the sideline, Roberts was a player on scholarship at Mercyhurst University, another Division II program.

“The Division II area was my background, I played there and I understood it,” Roberts said when discussing the background of the coach and moving forward. “It was so exciting to coach a great Division II program and help build up that program. Here I am now at Ashland, which is another very strong Division II institution.”

One thing has been vital to the success of Roberts, the relationships with the student athletes. Roberts believes that the relationship with the players is key.

“Like anything in life, it’s about relationships,” Roberts said. “Here at Ashland, it’s gonna be about the relationships with the kids. I take the approach that I want to treat them like adults. Due to my time in the pro-game, I’m not going to micromanage them. For me, it goes beyond the four years. I want them to go on and do great things.”

Roberts has experience in getting players to perform at high levels. During the time at Urbana, Roberts coached 40 players who received All-Region honors with four also being named All-Americans.

“It’s about the players. It’s a player’s game and the coaches are there to set the foundation and create the environment,” Roberts said. “Those 40 guys were very special players and we have some special players here, but I can’t take all the credit. It comes down to them.”

Due to the lack of any fall sports competition until January, Roberts said that this will be a different year for a coach in a new environment.

“Unusually, I am out recruiting and at a lot of high school games right now which is something I never do in the fall because of the season,” Roberts said. “There are some advantages to this suspension, but ultimately the kids that came here to Ashland to play soccer want to get out there and play and hopefully we can here soon.”

Roberts did say that there was a seven-game spring schedule followed up by the GLIAC Tournament which was proposed to Ashland and other conference schools, however nothing official has been announced by the conference.