A photo of a gleeful, blond-haired, bespectacled freshman greeted online readers of a particular Troubadour article on Oct. 23, 2017. The headline read “Student Athlete Spotlight: Well-rounded soccer player has high ambitions for team.”
Almost four years later, Sebastian Koehler is still all smiles, though he ditched the glasses. Furthermore, his hopes for the Barons soccer team are as high as ever.
Koehler graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in the spring of 2021 with an accounting degree and minors in finance and international business. He is currently in Franciscan’s graduate program pursuing a master’s degree in business administration with an accounting concentration.
This semester marks Koehler’s ninth semester at Franciscan and his eighth playing for the Barons soccer team, excluding his semester in Austria. Koehler has played multiple positions throughout his career, but he currently plays winger on either side of the field.
“The task of the winger,” said Koehler, “is basically to spread the field. … Every once in a while you’ll make that diagonal run through the center of the field to sort of take the other team off guard.”
It is uncommon for graduate students to play on a team; students can only play for four years during a five-year period. However, due to the effects of COVID-19 on the 2020 soccer season, a handful of seniors and graduate students, including Koehler, have been allowed to return.
“(It is) definitely a blessing of COVID,” said Koehler. “Obviously, at the time, it didn’t feel like a blessing. … In the end, everything worked out. … We’re able to finish off with a full season this year, God willing.”
Koehler said the team this year is “looking really, really good. We have one of the strongest teams (in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference).”
“This team, there’s a lot more to it than just a regular club,” said Koehler. “There’s a brotherhood involved. A lot of the guys hang out with each other both on and off the field. … We don’t even call our first-years ‘freshmen’ because we believe that they’re supposed to be treated at the same level as everyone else.”
The team’s moments of brotherhood are some of Koehler’s favorite memories. Those treasured memories are rivaled by Koehler’s own memorable feats — two separate bicycle kicks, one during homecoming and one that was featured on ESPN.
Koehler appreciates how the Catholic faith is integral to the team. He says the team takes a “Tim Tebow” approach to the faith, referencing a Christian professional football star known for kneeling on the field before games.
“We’re not afraid to show our faith,” said Koehler. “…We start each game with a prayer to Saint Michael. … Our goal is to win, but at the end of the day, we’re also trying to win the right way … with our eyes focused on the ultimate goal (of heaven).”
Hailing from Ashburn, Virginia, Koehler has had a lengthy soccer career. He began playing team soccer when he was five years old, started playing club travel soccer at 10 and played for numerous clubs during high school.
“Ever since I could walk I probably was kicking a soccer ball,” said Koehler. “I’ve coached, (acted as a referee) and played soccer my whole life.”
In addition to his love of soccer, Koehler is also an avid board game fan. He founded the Board Game Club on campus during his freshman year.
Balancing athletics, work and play is crucial for Koehler. His advice is to know when to say “no” or “goodbye” when other priorities must come first. Also, he warns against postponing responsibilities until the last minute.
Koehler’s overall demeanor signals his disciplined life. He consistently dresses sharply, as if fresh out of Sunday mass. Occasional features like the enormous gauze pad strapped to his scraped-up knee might betray his athleticism.
Koehler receives support from a plethora of sources, primarily from his family, which Koehler says is very close and encouraging. He has two older sisters, a younger brother (Niklas Koehler, who attends Franciscan) and a younger sister.
“My older sisters are like my own marketing squad,” said Koehler, “because I don’t post many things about my soccer stuff online, so they end up … carrying that (out) for me.”
Another source of support is Koehler’s household, Conquer Through Love, for which he was the coordinator last year. Koehler said the other members have taught him many life lessons, most notably how to be “more outgoing, more goofy.”
Koehler says he will be approaching the future one step at a time. In spite of nearly being cheated out of a portion of his soccer career, Koehler is thankful for his time at Franciscan.
“Don’t take for granted your time at Franciscan,” said Koehler. “If you go of your own personal choice … I almost believe it’s impossible to not grow in your faith if that’s your goal. So make it your goal.”