BAR HARBOR, Maine — Michael Curless’ soccer career began in his native California, continued through Europe and during more recent times has been based in Maine.
This fall that focus will turn to Mount Desert Island High School, where he recently was named the Trojans’ boys varsity soccer coach.
Curless is replacing the only head coach in the program’s history in John Rosenfeld, who started soccer at the school during the mid-1970s and coached the Trojans’ varsity squad for 35 seasons until retiring earlier this year.
Curless, a Mount Desert resident and psychologist based in Ellsworth, currently serves as president and co-founder of Acadia Fire FC, a soccer club on the island that offers under-8 through U-18 boys and girls travel teams.
He also has been a successful coach on the club level, last fall leading the U-13/U-14 Hampden Broncos girls’ travel team to the 2011 State Cup as well as its second straight undefeated season.
Among the players on that team was his daughter, 14-year-old Opal Curless, who recently was one of just 48 players from throughout the country selected for the U14 National Team Pool.
Curless also coaches the Blackbear United FC boys’ U-18 premier team.
He is looking forward to coaching in the competitive Class B high school ranks.
“It seemed like the natural evolution for all the coaching I have done over the years,” said Curless. “The advantage with coaching a high school team is that you get the players’ 100 percent commitment during the season. During the travel season you get them maybe once a week after their high school commitments.
“I’m very excited to be having these players five or six times a week,” Curless said.
Curless grew up in California, where he played both travel and high school soccer and eventually was offered a scholarship to UCLA, only to opt to play in Europe.
He played on teams in Austria, Germany and France in the mid- and late-1980s before returning to California and later moving to Maine after marrying wife Abigail, an MDI native.
Curless coached recreational soccer for several years at the Harbor House in Southwest Harbor before teaming with Jim Fox to create the Acadia Fire FC in 2007. That club has grown steadily throughout its four years from 30 at its outset to more than 100 youth soccer players now, largely from the Mount Desert Island communities.
“[MDI High School] athletic director Bunky Dow has always been a big supporter of Acadia Fire travel soccer, allowing our teams to use the MDI High School facilities over the past four years,” said Curless. “I look forward to partnering with MDI staff.”
Curless holds a U.S. Soccer Federation National B coaching license, and traces much of his coaching background to his contact with Hubert Vogelsinger, a former professional player from Austria who later coached at Yale University and with the San Diego Soccers of the North American Soccer League before establishing his own soccer camps.
“I went to these soccer camps for six to seven weeks every summer for six years and [that] is where I credit my own learning of soccer techniques,” said Curless, who played on several soccer teams coached by Vogelsinger that traveled to Europe, South America and China during the mid-1980s.
Curless expects to welcome an MDI roster with a mix of youth and experience to preseason practices in mid-August. Among the veterans back from the Trojans’ 7-8-1 season in 2011 will be the coach’s son, Audyn Curless, a senior forward.
“I think we’re going to be competitive,” said coach Curless. “My coaching focus has always centered around skill development, so we’re going to strive to be a skillful team.”
Curless also will be conducting the Acadia Fire Goal Scorers Summer Soccer Camp for youths at the Bar Harbor YMCA soccer field July 23-27. For more information on this skill-development camp for field players and goalkeepers alike, call the Y at 288-3511.