Kollasch named new boys soccer coach at MHS

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MTT News Desk's picture
Rob Reischel
Ben Kollasch (right) will replace Ken Burghy (left) as Middleton’s boys soccer coach./Photo submitted

Ben Kollasch is — and always has been — deeply invested in Middleton’s boys soccer program.

Kollasch watched his four older brothers play at Middleton in the 1980s. Kollasch later became an MHS standout himself, and helped lead the Cardinals to the state tournament in 1993 and ’94.

And Kollasch has coached in the Middleton program since 1996.

So it’s safe to say that Middleton got one of its own recently, when Kollasch was named the new coach at MHS. Kollasch replaces Ken Burghy, who was Middleton’s head coach the past 29 years, but retired following the 2012 season.

“It probably means more to me than it would to any other person in the world,” Kollasch said of taking over the Cardinals’ program. “I looked up to MHS soccer players as heroes while growing up.

“I was part of a great team while playing at MHS and I have known most of the athletes that have ever played Middleton soccer. To be able to continue that tradition has been a dream of mine and I hope to give back everything it has given me.”

Burghy was vacationing when news of Kollasch’s hiring broke. But the former MHS coach was so giddy, his excitement could be heard all the way back in Middleton.

“Ben has always been a student of the game and an outstanding liaison between the players and myself,” Burghy said. “The players respect him and he is a wonderful role model.

“He is far more analytical and emotionally consistent than I ever was. Ben is always on an even keel. He will do a wonderful job.”

Amazingly, there was a Kollasch in Middleton’s program for 14 consecutive seasons. Kollasch, himself, helped the program explode with back-to-back trips to state in the 1990s. During Kollasch’s senior season in 1994, Middleton went 24-1-3, was ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin and No. 13 nationally.

The Cardinals have been a state force ever since. And for the most part, Kollasch has been a key member of the ride.

Kollasch has been a freshman or JV coach every season except two since 1996. So good luck finding someone who knew the program better than Kollasch.

“It is an honor to take charge of this particular program and I feel that we can boast the best soccer program in the state here in Middleton,” Kollasch said. “Last year we fielded more than 120 athletes in the fall season and I have not heard of any other program in the state that has done the same. 

“I am lucky to take over a program that has incredibly talented athletes and I am lucky that I can claim a part of the tradition that these athletes will continue to create each year out of their own sweat and hard work.”

Twelve people applied for the opening and four were brought in for interviews. Two of the final four had head coaching experience.

The candidates went through a lengthy interview conducted by athletic director Bob Joers, two members of the girls soccer coaching staff, and boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery — who was included to gain an outside perspective. At the end of the day, Kollasch won out.

“Great pick for us,” Joers said. “He’s been in the program for endless years. Ken Burghy thought that he’d be a great candidate for it.

“(Ben’s) soccer knowledge, his demeanor and organizational skills will keep us at the level and move us forward. We’re off and running with the next chapter.”

Burghy, who was a major proponent of Kollasch, agreed with Joers.

“The student-athletes, the program, and the sport will benefit from having Ben as the head of Middleton Cardinals soccer,” Burghy said. “I couldn't be happier for everyone involved.”

While Burghy clearly thinks highly of protégé, Kollasch has an even higher opinion of his former boss.

“Ken has been a mentor for me for years,” Kollasch said. “He taught me more than I can say and I am ever grateful for his patience, trust and generosity over the years.

“Ken left me with some important nuggets of wisdom that he was uniquely qualified to give. That soccer is about much more than technique, X's and O's, wins and losses. It is about people, their lives, what makes then great and how I can help them find their greatness.  

“He taught me that (former Notre Dame coach) Knute Rockne is still relevant and that inspiration is a precursor to motivation. He was a football guy from his youth, and when he combined that with his soccer coaching, he could not only conjure up giants on the MHS soccer field like they were legends of the gridiron, but he also gave me a rooted perspective of the importance of high school athletics in general for our teenagers.”

Kollasch understands he has enormous shoes to fill.

Burghy posted an overall record of 515-139-49. Burghy led the Cardinals to 12 state tournaments, 18 conference championships, won a state title in 2004 and was the state runner-up in 2000.

So Kollasch doesn’t plan to fiddle too much with what’s been an extremely successful formula.

“Ken obviously made a successful program that had staying power,” Kollasch said. “I don’t plan on making many changes that anyone outside the program would see. 

“Part of the strength of this program that is often overlooked is the huge participation numbers we have every year and the parent organization that has allowed for us to operate a successful program with so many athletes participating. I see the parent organization as having contributed in many ways to our sustained success.”

With any change, though, comes minor tinkering. And Kollasch has a few ideas of how to build on the remarkable success Burghy enjoyed.

“I think in terms of changes on the scale of tweaks here, nudges there,” Kollasch said. “But I do think we have room to improve both the level of play and the experience as a whole for all levels of our program. 

“I would like to unify the program from top-to-bottom more than it has been so that all our talented coaches are all reinforcing the same messages, the same strategies, and the same methods as the rest. That kind of unified program can jump-start teams and allow athletes to learn more quickly and spend more time enjoying the game.”

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