Norse alumni Darling takes over soccer program
The 23-year-old is also excited about coaching soccer at his alma mater — Suttons Bay.
And the 2007 grad, who went on to play four years at Kalamazoo College, is even more excited about the possibility of continuing a five-year run on district championships.
Darling is hoping some his excitement rubs off on the Norse when they take the field next month.
“I’ve always envisioned myself coaching at some point ... at some level,” Darling said. “I never anticipated that it would be this early at the varsity level, but I’m honored to be in this position.
“I’m proud to be an alumni of this program. It has a rich tradition of success and I hope to be able to continue that.”
Darling is replacing Randy U’Ren, the same coach he played for in 2006.
“I’m excited for Ben and the program,” U’Ren said. “I’ve known the Darling family for over six years now. Ben was one of the first guys I had and I was able to see him play in college.
“He’s got the knowledge and respect of the players and I think he’s going to be fantastic.”
Darling said replacing U’Ren may be a difficult act to follow after he led the Norse to five district titles in six seasons.
“Coach U’Ren experienced great success while he was here and it would be great if we could continue the district championship streak,” said Darling, who noted the loss of several key players from last year’s 16-3-2 squad. “This is an opportunity for new guys to step up and fill those roles on the field.
“I think if everybody comes together that we have a shot at competing and putting up another banner.”
Darling, who played center halfback on Suttons Bay’s 2005 state semifinal squad, played for three different high school coaches. He also played youth and college soccer for various coaches.
“Some really emphasized the technical aspects of the game, other coaches really stressed the teamwork and the coming together,” Darling said. “I would like to think that I could draw something from every coach I’ve had.”
Being a defender for most of his playing days, Darling expects to be a little bit defensive.
“I feel at home in the back, I like to see the field and know where the players are,” he said. “I stress defense, getting behind the ball and communicating.”
Darling, who is working on his master’s degree at the University Center in Traverse City, has been a substitute teacher in the Suttons Bay Schools.
“I know the principal and some of the teachers here,” Darling said. “So that should help the transition.
“I recognize that this is my first go-around and I’m not afraid to look to them for support or ask for assistance.”
Darling also had another inside track. He assisted U’Ren last fall on the soccer field.
“I know many of the guys already,” Darling said. “I got to know some of them pretty well.”
Doug Periard, Suttons Bay’s athletic director, said Darling was the top choice among a handful of quality candidates.
“Ben was a fine student-athlete here at Suttons Bay and he went on to play college soccer,” Periard said. “He’s a very polished kid and a quality guy to bring into our program.”
Being a young coach may be Darling’s toughest challenge.
“There are going to be times when I have to challenge myself to be a coach in the mentor role as opposed to being a peer or friends out on the field,” he said.
“Ben is full of integrity,” U’Ren said. “And he’s going to help the guys more than just on the soccer field.
“He’ll be a great mentor to those boys.”
Although the Norse struggled to field a team at the start of last season, Darling expects to have plenty of kids in uniform.
“I don’t expect a ton of guys on the bench, but that means there will be