Soccer kick starts new year with fresh coach
After a dismal 2012 season, women’s soccer returned from winter break to new leadership with head coach Adrian Blewitt, who officially started Jan. 3, replacing former head coach Freddy Delgado, according to the director of athletics.
Delgado finished his career at UALR with a 33-61-4 record over the course of five seasons. Delgado’s best season came in 2010 when the Trojans went 7-12-1.
Blewitt hails from Grimsby, England, an old fishing port located along the eastern coast of the country. He was recruited to play soccer for Lock Haven University in central Pennsylvania and arrived in the United States in 1990. Over the course of his career as a student-athlete at Lock Haven, Blewitt became a four-time All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference selection and the league’s most valuable defensive player.
Blewitt aspired to become a full-time soccer coach after seeing the difference from coaching at home in England.
“We don’t have positions like this that are full-time in England,” Blewitt said. “At the advanced-educational level, you’re a teacher first and then you get somebody to kind of volunteer their time or, you know, coach a soccer team for peanuts,” Blewitt joked.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1994, Blewitt pursued a master’s degree in liberal arts while working as an assistant coach at his alma mater.
Blewitt received his first head coaching position in 1997 from the then-named Methodist College (now Methodist University) in Fayetteville, N.C. He coached the men’s soccer team until 2001 and accumulated 34 wins during his time with the NCAA Division III school.
His next head coaching position was at Lees-McRae College, an NCAA Division II school in Banner Elk, N.C., where he coached the men’s soccer team from 2002-04 and led the Bobcats to a 43-17-1 record.
After the 2004 season, Blewitt moved across the state to Hickory, where he became the men’s head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne University, an NCAA Division II school. He coached the men for two years and was then approached by the athletic director to see if he would be interested in coaching the women’s team as well.
Blewitt agreed and for two seasons split time between coaching the men’s team, coaching the women’s team and helping his wife, Tami, care for their newborn daughter, JoElle. At this point, Blewitt realized something had to give and met with the athletic director.
“It just wasn’t the right situation for the programs,” Blewitt said. “You know, one coach, who is kind of sharing his time and maybe not putting enough time into one of the programs.”
With that, Blewitt decided to fully invest his attention into the women’s soccer program.
“I think I shocked a lot of people when I said that because a lot of people thought I was a men’s coach and definitely not a women’s coach,” Blewitt said. “Ever since then, I’ve been coaching the women and loving it.”
During his time at Lenoir-Rhyne, Blewitt led the men to a 54-23-4 record in four seasons and led the women to a 70-28-7 record in five seasons. His best season as head coach of the men’s team came in 2006, when he led the Bears to a 19-1-1 record and a fifth spot in the national rankings. His best season as head coach of the women’s team came in 2010, in which he led the Bears to a 19-2-2 record and helped the team advance to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
In July 2012, Blewitt received an offer to become an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an NCAA Division I school. He took the job and worked under Steve Nugent, head coach of the Spartans, for the 2012 season.
At the end of UNCG’s season, Blewitt said he missed being a head coach and running his own program. He noticed UALR had a head coaching vacancy. He was aware of the program’s recent struggles, but said he has overcome that obstacle throughout his entire coaching career.
“I knew that obviously the [UALR soccer] program had struggled for quite a long time, but you know, this is the fourth program that I’ve taken over where the program has been bottom-of-the-conference when I got there.”
Blewitt said the fact that UALR’s soccer program is fully funded with 14 full scholarships and the school plays in a Division I conference made this an attractive job.
Blewitt says he is already hard at work rebuilding the program.
“The recruiting process started about five minutes after I accepted the position,” Blewitt joked. “Pretty much over the whole holiday I spent [time] at soccer tournaments recruiting, trying to make sure we’re bringing in some really good players straight away for this season, if we can.”
Blewitt says the biggest struggle has been the timing of his hire. He said he never got a chance to meet any of the players or see them compete because the hiring was announced Dec. 12, and students were preparing to go home for the winter break.
“The first priority, with the kind of the month layoff over the break, was to really get a go with recruiting and obviously try and get eight or nine players in here for the fall, so we actually have a decent-size squad of 23 or 24 players, as well as trying to bring in some good talent, too.”
Blewitt says he is looking forward to getting things established by providing a structure with the current roster and getting them motivated about the fresh start that is about to take place.
“I’ve inherited this position and it’s the same as other positions I’ve taken over in previous years and I’ve quickly turned those programs around into winning conference championships,” Blewitt said, adding, “the last two, I’ve taken to top-ten finishes in the nation.”
Blewitt said he hopes this inspires and motivates his players, but they have to be the ones who believe it can happen in Little Rock.