Jed Hohlbein is not used to watching soccer games from the sidelines. As a player for Middleton High School, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Madison 56ers over the last 15 years, Hohlbein has logged a lot of minutes at center striker because he's adept at putting the ball in the net.
"Last year I stepped into the role of assistant coach," says Hohlbein, who has played seven of the last eight years with the 56ers in the National Premier Soccer League. "I'm still in a position where I can get out and play, but it's been a little tough relinquishing some of the playing time. It's been nice to help the younger guys out, though."
Hohlbein and the 56ers hold their home opener at Breese Stevens Field on Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m. against Aris Eau Claire after playing in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament in Des Moines Wednesday. As the team's all-time leading scorer, Hohlbein helps form an impressive staff with head coach Jim Launder, who led the Badgers to a national championship in 1995.
"Jim's really good at helping players find a spot on the field that suits their style the best," says Hohlbein. "Some coaches have systems and try to bring players in and mold them to that system. We have a system, too, but we try to push players into places where we believe they'll be playing to their best strengths."
The team plays eight home games this year, including two international matches against teams from Freiburg, Germany, and Portsmouth, England. Back for a second year is the Red Rebels fan club, which aims to bring some much-needed enthusiasm to 56ers home games.
"For a town its size, Madison has a thriving soccer community and we hope to contribute to that," says Hohlbein. "Breese Stevens provides a pretty great atmosphere to come and watch a soccer game."