Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant
Favorite team: All Philly Sports
Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring in overtime in district playoffs sophomore year.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Our coach hides in bushes to make sure we don’t cut corners while running laps of the school.
Music on iPod: Country, Rap
Future plans: Study Computer Science in college
Words to live by: “Everything negative is an opportunity to rise.”
One goal before turning 30: Be a Millionaire
One think people don’t know about me: I can solve a Rubik’s Cube.
By Mary Jane Souder
Paul Duddy calls Mike Kohler ‘a coach’s dream.’
The senior captain is on Duddy’s short list of the top players to come through North Penn during his years at the helm. Ask the veteran coach what stands out about his senior captain, and it isn’t the goals or even the assists that Kohler regularly contributes.
“He’s definitely and absolutely a leader,” Duddy said. “He’s not a screamer, but he gives directions to our players.
“He will then step up – if we need somebody to find a way to score a goal, he’s usually the one that does it. If we need somebody to set another player up, get an assist, he does that. He’s very unselfish. He’s a coach’s dream.”
That’s high praise for a player who made quite a first impression on the Knights’ coach.
“He attended our North Penn camps probably 8-10 years ago,” Duddy said. “I saw him and said, ‘This is a special guy coming along here.’”
Kohler has not disappointed. Although he’s the consummate finisher in the box, he’s equally adept at setting up his teammates. Duddy recalls the Knights’ recent 5-2 win over Pennridge that saw Kohler have a hand in all five goals – which included four assists.
The first assist was vintage Kohler..
“He came down the right side, he beat one or two defenders, and he did exactly the right thing – he put the ball back where he saw an open teammate,” Duddy said. “For the guy who finished, it was a fairly easy goal because it was so well set up.
“He draws the defenders and then gives the ball up. The keeper couldn’t react – it was just too good a play.”
Last year, Kohler was runner-up to All-American Evan Vare in the all-league balloting. All Vare did was lead Central Bucks East to an undefeated season and the program’s first ever state title. Vare is an impact player at Lafayette College this fall.
“You could never argue with that – Evan Vare has been a great high school player, and he’s doing well in college too,” Duddy said. “Michael finished second to him, and this year I think is his year.”
This season, the Knights are in a dogfight with Central Bucks East for supremacy in the SOL Continental Conference standings. The Knights briefly owned the top spot after snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots dating back to September of 2013 with a 2-0 win.
The win helped erase memories of last year’s heartbreaking season-ending loss in penalty kicks to East in the district quarterfinals. The Patriots went on to win the district and state titles.
“It was such a hard loss,” Kohler said. “East again was one of our biggest tests, and if we could have gotten past them, there’s always the ‘what if,’ so that drove us to work ever harder in the offseason.”
No one works harder than Kohler, according to Duddy.
“The other kids look up to him because they see how hard he works every day at practice,” the Knights’ coach said. “He’s a good kid, he has fun, and he knows how to laugh, but when we work, he works, believe me.”
Kohler’s final season has been a memorable one so far.
“It means so much to me,” he said. “We’re finally coming together in the way that we need to be to beat teams like East.
“They’re such a good team, and it was such a big test for us. To know we finally overcame East proves even more to us that we’re ready for the postseason.”
Kohler has had a passion for sports from his earliest recollection.
“As soon I could walk, I always had a ball in my hands, whether it was a baseball, basketball or soccer ball,” he said. “I just played any sport I could.
“Growing up, I had a lot of friends on my street. There was a big field in my neighborhood, and some of my earliest memories are just being out until it got dark, just playing whatever we could.”
It was that love of the game that prompted Kohler to become involved in organized sports even before he was age eligible, and he played basketball, baseball, soccer and even tried his hand at hockey and lacrosse for short stints, but soccer was always at the top of his list.
“One of my older sisters played soccer, and I was always brought along to her games,” Kohler said. “There were always little brothers and sisters that I would play soccer with.
“When I started playing, I really fell in love with it, and it became my favorite sport. I don’t even know why, I just loved the game. It’s so much fun to play, it’s a team sport. Obviously, you make some of the closest friends you’ll ever have. The competition definitely drew me in, just like any sport.”
Kohler rapidly went through the ranks, joining FC Delco – now Continental – on the club circuit and never leaving.
The senior standout, according to his coach, has plenty of options.
“He’ll be able to go wherever he wants to go,” Duddy said.
Interestingly, Kohler isn’t sure that playing soccer at the collegiate level is in his future, although he is keeping all his options open. He points to Penn State as his dream school.
“My whole family went to Penn State,” he said.
He plans to major in computer science and said academics are his top priority.
“Academics are my future,” Kohler said.
Coaching is something that will undoubtedly be part of Kohler’s future as well.
“This past summer I worked as a camp counselor at the YMCA,” he said. “I can’t even tell you how much I learned from that.
“It brought me back to when I was that age. The kids just play for pure enjoyment. There’s something about the kids that brings out the best in everyone.”
Kohler points to the life lessons he learned in soccer
“Everything about soccer makes you learn something,” he said. “Everything you do – you take something away from it.
“The one quality I’ve learned was just having discipline. There are a bunch of times during the preseason when you have to wake up early, and you don’t feel like getting out of bed. When you get home from a night game and you have two tests the next day you have to study for, I think without playing soccer I don’t know if I would have ever learned that discipline.”
It’s the kind of mature thinking that sets Kohler apart.
“He works our camps in the summer, he’s a good student, he’s from a great family,” Duddy said. “He’s just a great kid.”