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Kollasch takes reins from mentor Burghy at Middleton

07/27/2013, 10:00pm CDT
Ben Kollasch

It's only fitting that someone with the surname of Kollasch is in charge of the Middleton High School boys soccer team.

Ben Kollasch, the youngest of five brothers who played for the Cardinals and a coach in the program for 11 of the past 13 years, will be at the helm when Middleton kicks off practice Aug. 12. He succeeds Ken Burghy, who retired last fall after compiling a 515-139-49 record in 29 seasons.

The 35-year-old Kollasch acknowledged that taking over a program that has won 18 conference titles and made 12 WIAA state tournament appearances is a daunting task.

"I've seen the program from a lot of different facets, though, so I think I know what I'm getting into," said Kollasch, who played on the Cardinals' varsity teams in 1993 and '94. "And I'm a little familiar with the daunting task. It's a really big program."

That it is: Last fall, Middleton fielded six teams with three junior varsity sides and two freshman teams in addition to the varsity squad, which went 19-3-3 and posted its sixth perfect conference season.

"I would think last year we had the biggest program in the state," said Kollasch, who was Burghy's varsity assistant the past four seasons. "I just haven't heard of other programs being able to have that many kids. So it's a got a lot there.

"I don't really plan on changing a lot of what Ken did, most of that's going to stay right where it was and that machinery is already in place to have some success, I think."

When Burghy announced his retirement prior to the 2012 season, he said he hoped someone with ties to the program would take over. However, he also didn't want to influence Middleton athletic director Bob Joers' choice after interviews were done in February.

"There were some other good candidates. I kind of kept out of it and let Bob make the decision," Burghy said. "But I'm happy with the one he made."

Burghy said he remembers seeing a potential coach on the field back in 1994 when Kollasch played on the backline for a Cardinals team that went 24-1-3 and was ranked 13th in the nation.

"He was very analytical as a player," Burghy said. "The back four that we had back then were all very, very smart, they worked well together and they understood the game so well. Ben's been a student of the game for a long, long time and he knows it well. ... He's a real tactician, he has a great relationship with the guys. He's very intelligent, he knows a lot about the game, so he's going to make improvements, I'm sure."

Kollasch followed his brothers Bob, Mike, Tom and Tony in playing for Middleton – there was at least one member of the family on the Cardinals' roster for 14 consecutive years – then played for Madison United in the Madison Soccer Association while attending the University of Wisconsin.

Since 1996, he's served in pretty much every coaching role in the Middleton program, with the exception of 2006 to '08 when he was teaching abroad in Ecuador.

And like his mentor, Kollasch has a strong opinion about high school sports' place in today's athletic scene.

"I think what I want to make sure happens is that we continue to make high school sports, and high school soccer, relevant," he said. "I'm a little worried about the trend to play club year-round. I think it's wonderful for the kids that it really helps, but for the vast majority of kids, I don't think it's going to be a ticket to a professional career. ... Club soccer is great – I love it, I played it for a long time. I just don't want kids to think that's going to be their ticket to somewhere. If we misrepresent that, we're doing a disservice to kids.

"I think Ken has done really well over the years of building a tradition, building something that kids want to come back to. I just hope that we don't get in the way of that. ... I want to make (high school soccer) an experience that kids can have a great time with, can have a really competitive time with – I feel like we can offer the participation and offer a really competitive talent pool in Middleton. We're really lucky that way."

While he might not be planning any major changes, Kollasch is expecting a little different approach on the field.

"I think in some ways, contrary to who I was as a player, I may have been a little less stressing of the defensive angle than Ken was," said Kollasch, who teaches English as a Second Language in the Madison Metropolitan School District. "He was very much about pride in 'defense first, defense wins championships.' And I've seen the payoff in that.

"At the same time, there's something to beautiful soccer and attacking soccer, and the advantage does go to someone who takes control of the game. So I think I'll probably push it a little more towards attacking in some ways."

Told about Kollasch's comments, Burghy was completely supportive.

"I think that's a great idea and I encourage him to do it," said Burghy, who led Middleton to the WIAA Division 1 state title in 2004 after a runner-up finish in 2000. "What I learned and what I think is true is the system that you use depends on the players that you have. So I hope he gets some good, attack-minded guys that are able to do that for him."

No matter the case, Burghy said the program is in good hands with Kollasch.

"Absolutely," he said. "I can't wait to get out and watch some games this fall."

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