‘One team, one goal, one family’

Men’s soccer coach Nick Carlin-Voigt ensures that his players know that it isn’t just about the game.

By Molly Bancroft | November 8, 2023 12:00pm
Mens Soccer Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt celebrates with his son after a home game win against CSUN
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

From the moment five year-old Nick Carlin-Voigt stepped onto a soccer pitch for the first time, it was a match made in heaven. Not one to sit on the sidelines at such a young age, Carlin-Voigt instantly got hooked on the sport. This passion followed him throughout his college journey — and a stint in a professional career — before eventually landing him here as the men’s soccer head coach on The Bluff.

Currently working on his seventh season with the Pilots, Carlin-Voigt has been able to bring the program to national attention and recognition. According to the NCAA United Soccer Coaches Poll, published on Oct. 24, the University of Portland men’s soccer team currently sits in the top 20 D1 teams nationally. While under his coaching, the Pilots have had some of the best performances for the men’s soccer team in decades. He has taken the team to four playoff appearances with the team, making it to the Elite Eight during the most recent NCAA tournament. 

Carlin-Voigt has not only built a powerhouse team, but also made quite the name for himself in the coaching world with his program being nationally ranked for recruitment classes for the past six seasons. Just this past July, UP’s recruitment class was ranked second amongst all D1 men’s teams. 

But those accolades are not what motivate him and his team to keep pushing themselves. It’s the potential to better themselves over time.

“If you look at the greats, from Kobe, to Messi, to Michael Jordan, they’re on this quest of chasing excellence and chasing something that’s not attainable and trying to get to the top of the mountain,” Carlin-Voigt said. “And so I think I’ve used a lot of similar methods and ways to try to really push players to help them have a bigger vision for themselves.” 

Mens Soccer Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt celebrates with the student section after a home game win against Denver.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

But this mindset of continuing to learn and grow wasn’t something he only developed as a coach. It’s something that has followed him since childhood. 

Patricia Carlin, Carlin-Voigt’s mother, remembers how as a child he was constantly pushing himself to keep doing more — whether it be community service or sports. She noted that playing sports allowed him to really decide his own schedule and how much he wanted to put in.

“‘I’m [Carlin-Voigt] going to go and do this,’” Carlin said. “‘I’m going to meet so and so, and we’re gonna kick this many balls, and do this.’ And there was no button pushing him at all. It’s totally up to him.”

This determination followed him from his days in high school to playing goalkeeper at Kalamazoo College, MI, earning himself the most number of shutouts and saves of any of their keepers to this day. From there, he moved towards playing professionally with Cruz Azul Oaxaca of the Mexican Second Division. After that, he moved back home to play for the Kalamazoo Kingdom before beginning the second part of his soccer career: coaching.

Carlin-Voigt grew up understanding the importance of education. Carlin herself was an educator who ensured that her children carried on the sentiment that giving back is one of the most important things people can do for one another. Getting to combine that with his passion for soccer in coaching was something Carlin-Voigt couldn’t pass up.

“I think at a young age, combining the lessons that my parents taught me just as a human being, as a person, as a community and then applying those to the sport has been kind of a marriage of my upbringing and my ability of the coaching journey I’ve been on,” Carlin-Voigt said.

Prior to his arrival at UP, Carlin-Voigt was able to serve as the assistant head coach at George Mason University for five years and as associate head coach at UCLA. At both universities, similarly to UP, he was able to bring accolades in terms of performance and recruitment. 

Mens Soccer Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt celebrates with the student section after a home game win against Denver
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

But eventually, Carlin-Voigt was recruited to become head coach for the Pilots. He notes that one of the key reasons in his decision to join the Pilot community was due to one of his inspirations coming from UP, Kasey Keller. 

A legendary goalkeeper, Kasey Keller graduated from UP in 1991 after helping lead the team to their first NCAA tournament appearance. To this day, Keller still holds the title of most career shutouts for any goalkeeper at the university. After graduating, he went on to play in four World Cup tournaments and make quite the name for himself in international leagues, joining various German, Spanish and English leagues. 

“I still remember vividly the ‘94 World Cup,” Carlin-Voigt said. “I had a poster of Kasey Keller on my wall and knew he played at University of Portland.”

But stepping up as head coach was no easy task for Carlin-Voigt. Some of the reasons that drew him here were also some of the reasons that made the job daunting — UP already had a lengthy soccer history and wanted to ensure that he added to that. 

“I felt like [the University of Portland] was a sleeping giant,” Carlin-Voigt said. “I felt like the program had a lot of success and had a lot of great founders and people who have come before me. And I felt like we could do that again.” 

Like all sports at UP, Carlin-Voigt heavily emphasizes that his players remember they are students before athletes. At no clearer time was this highlighted than the program’s achievement last year of garnering an average GPA of 3.40, which was the highest in program history. Carlin-Voigt heavily applauds the diverse curriculum that UP offers and cites that it really allows for his players to grow in their understanding of the world.

“I think the exposure to what we don’t know is fascinating. And I always believe that the best players that we have in our program are curious. And I don’t think that’s just on the field. I think that’s in the classroom.”

In terms of his coaching philosophy, the notion of family is at the forefront. Coming from a large Italian-Catholic family, the importance of building connections and relationships is something that was naturally ingrained in him at a very young age. As a coach, he’s found it important to be open and honest with his team to build stronger bonds of trust that lead the team to victory. 

“I think that’s the core of the mission of our program, that we’re a family,” Carlin-Voigt said. “When you talk about the philosophy of the program, you can’t talk about that without mentioning one team, one goal, one family.”

One team, one goal, one family. 

That’s a saying Carlin-Voigt coined for the team. Captain Kevin Bonilla, a junior finance major, has seen this philosophy in action over his three years here. 

“Part of that [family-orientated culture] is him being so open about his family and things that may be going on with his family and stuff like that, which just gives us kind of more confidence playing behind him and being our leader,” Bonilla said. 

Kevin Bonilla crosses the ball in a game against CSUN.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

His family-orientated philosophy continues off Merlo. Carlin-Voigt’s wife, Marin Henderson-Posther, and children, Winnie, 5, Rowen, 2 and Wilder, 4 months, are a constant source of inspiration to him. He loves getting to watch his children cheer on the team and walk them down to the field. 

“It makes me really happy when the kids run onto Merlo Field after,” Carlin-Voigt said. “My oldest daughter was in my arms when we won our first playoff game in 2018. And she was, I think, six months. And so they’ve grown up around the program.” 

His family has also become a large part of the players’ lives as well. He’ll sometimes host dinners or get togethers for the team at his house to promote bonding between the players and his family. 

He credits his wife for being his rock these past few years. Henderson-Posther, who has taught sociology at UP as an adjunct professor, has allowed him to not only work as a great coach but to be a father as well.

“She’s [Henderson-Posther] very much been the rock of our family that allows me to not just raise my own three kids but help these fine young men through some challenges that they have and really be emotionally available for them,” Carlin-Voigt said. 

In the off-season, Carlin-Voigt’s other full-time job is helping raise his children. He and his family like to travel in the free time that they get over the summer. But to him, simply getting to be around family allows him to turn into his true self: laughing along at the latest joke he was able to pull. 

Mens Soccer Coach Nick Carlin-Voigt celebrates with his son after a home game win against Denver.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Currently, Carlin-Voigt has only added to his recent 75 career wins achievement, currently sitting at 82 wins as of Nov. 8. The men’s soccer team is also working to make yet another NCAA appearance, wanting to get even further than last year’s team. But, as he notes, soccer is an up-and-down journey that can change on a dime. What’s more important to him is creating that sense of community for his team to not only play better but to find themselves another familial community. 

“At the end of the day, soccer is just a microcosm of life,” Carlin-Voigt said.  “There's good days and there's tough days, and there's excitement and there's disappointment. And through it all, we want to be consistently there for each other.”

Molly Bancroft is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at bancroft26@up.edu.