Eastern Mennonite University head men’s soccer coach Roger Mast has announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2021 season. Currently in his 31st season with the Royals, Mast is the program’s longest-tenured and all-time winningest coach.
“Words can hardly express my gratitude for the opportunity that the university has entrusted me with to guide the EMU men’s soccer program over the past 30 plus years,” Mast said. “I am deeply indebted to the hundreds of players that I have been able to work with. Their hard work, determination, and desire to grow as men while here at EMU has been my greatest inspiration and reward.”
His record of more than 250 wins includes advancing to five Old Dominion Athletic Conference finals, winning two conference championships, and advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA national tournament.
Mast has coached more than 20 individuals to regional All-American selections, one named to the national All-American team, and nearly twice as many athletes to ODAC conference and other individual honors. He’s also earned recognition as a two-time ODAC Coach of the Year and Virginia State Coach of the Year.
“This decision was strongly influenced by my desire to spend more time with my wife, Cheryl, and my sons and their wives, who have sacrificed much over the years of my coaching career,” Mast said. “I also look forward to having time to pursue other interests and passions that I have had little time for.”
Mast will continue in his role director and associate professor with EMU’s health and physical education program. In addition to coaching, he also served the university as athletic director from 1991-94. He holds national, advanced national, and premiere diplomas with the United Soccer Coaches Association, as well as an MS in health and physical education from West Chester University and an EdD in Educational Leadership: Higher Education from Argosy University.
“As I reflect on the many hats Roger has worn in his 30 years, there is no doubt about his commitment to EMU, even beyond the men’s soccer program, as a valuable bridge between athletics and academics,” said Director of Athletics Dave King. “It is amazing to think about the number of lives Roger has influenced in his 30 years and I hope those stories are brought to the surface as we celebrate his years of service at EMU.”
Several events are being planned to celebrate Mast and his contributions to EMU student-athletes and the soccer program.
The search for the next head men’s soccer coach will begin shortly.
Reflections from players and coaches
“A well-deserved rest” was how Emmanuel Boamah, a three-time VASID All-State and two-time NSCAA Regional All-American from 2015-18, described the news of his former coach’s retirement plans. Boamah praised Mast’s unparalleled work ethic and an attitude towards his students and athletes like a father figure. “He was not only worried about how we played on the field but also our academics and helping us to become responsible and respectable young men. Thank you, Coach, for all you do and continue to do for me and the rest of the boys.”
Also a decorated team captain in the late ’90s, Mike Zook names Mast as a father figure as well. “He supported and guided me through a tough first two years with injuries, persuaded me to not play baseball, and provided me with a skill set to develop as a player.”
“Though practices were fun, improvement through drills and conditioning was stressed,” Zook said, “and he wasn’t afraid to drop the hammer if needed.” That balanced emphasis on care for the individual athlete, as well as instillation of discipline and work ethic is a special legacy.
“I feel his most important role was helping develop young men into caring and influential individuals who took that competitive edge back to communities all over the U.S. and beyond,” Zook said.
Jeff Shank, who earned national All-American honors under Mast, recalled the excitement among the team and on campus during their ODAC and NCAA wins during his time with the program in late ’90s. Much of that success, Shank says, was due to Mast’s leadership, his relationships with players and his ability to motivate them — qualities that continued to connect former players with the program for years to come. “Anyone who is able to coach at a higher level for more than 30 years deserves a tremendous amount of respect and admiration,” Shank said. “I’m thankful for his dedication to EMU and his impact on my life and so many others.”
In 31 years of involvement with soccer, Mast has inspired and mentored many former players to join the coaching ranks. Messiah University head men’s soccer coach Brad McCarty traces his career back to being a student and athlete at Christopher Dock Academy, Mast’s first stop after graduating from EMU.
“A dynamic personality” in the PE classroom, Mast also “had a reputation for being a great coach who understood the game of soccer and was passionate about teaching the technical aspects of the sport,” McCarty said. “I left Dock Mennonite Academy with the desire to be a soccer coach and physical education teacher because I wanted to be like Roger Mast. He was a man of faith, a man of character, and someone who loved his profession of coaching and teaching.”
McCarty went on to play at Messiah University and then to move on to his first coaching position at Hesston College — two life-changing opportunities that Mast encouraged and supported.
Ted Erickson, head women’s soccer coach at EMU, also names Mast as a treasured mentor and friend who helped move his coaching career along. Erickson played for Mast, coached several years at the high school level, and then returned as Mast’s assistant coach.
“Roger gave me my first opportunity to coach at the college level as his assistant coach and has always been someone who is willing to listen to my questions, ask thought-provoking questions all while helping guide me to find my own answers and never telling me what to do,” Erickson said. “He’s touched the lives of so many here and I’ll miss our working relationship, our friendship, and his mentorship.”
University of Lynchburg head men’s soccer coach Chris Yeager, a former player and current coach with rival ODAC teams, also has known Mast as long as he’s been involved with EMU. “When I think of Roger Mast, the first word that comes to mind is class,” he said. “Whether he won or I won, he always handled it with class. He’s one of the all-time greats. I’m sad I won’t get to share the sideline with him anymore.”