England native Caleb Fortune named head girls soccer coach at Hudson
When he was offered his first opportunity to teach players about the “beautiful game,” Caleb Fortune was a bit apprehensive.
“I was asked to coach a 6-year-old team,” he said.
Fortune received a recommendation from Martin Rennie, who was the director of the Ambassadors Football Club in Twinsburg at the time.
“He told me to do it for two months and see how it goes,” Fortune said of Rennie, who is now the head coach of Indy Eleven of the United Soccer League.
Let’s just say it was a long two months. Very long.
What did Fortune learn from that difficult experience? For starters, he was no Sir Alex Ferguson. Not in his first season, at least.
“We lost every single game,” Fortune said. “We only had six players and it was a six-on-six league.”
Surprisingly enough, Fortune decided to give it another go. The rest, you can say, is history.
Pending board approval, Fortune is expected to be named head girls soccer coach at Hudson High School during its next board meeting, which is scheduled for June 29.
The 33-year-old Fortune replaces Chris Gentille, who resigned earlier this year. Fortune has been the Ambassadors’ director since 2007.
Fortune, a native of England and a former member of the Charlton Athletic Football Club, also has worked with players in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
“Caleb has trained a number of amateur and professional soccer players,” Hudson athletic director Mike Chuppa said. “We’re incredibly fortunate to add him to our staff. He embodies what we look for in all of our coaches.
“He’s a good person, a good role model and is someone who effectively connects with his student-athletes and forges critical relationships. We’re excited to have him on board.”
Fortune eventually figured out this coaching thing after a rough first season.
The Ambassadors have had a ton of success since he joined the club. Thanks to Fortune’s tutelage, many former players have continued their careers on both the collegiate and professional levels.
Fortune, who currently lives in Streetsboro, got a taste of what Hudson soccer was like two years before he joined the Ambassadors. He worked briefly with then head boys coach Mike Payne during the preseason.
“I trained a little bit with the boys,” Fortune said. “I felt like Hudson was always a good place. After talking to some people, I learned that high school soccer in America is some of the best times in their lives. I love the game because of what it can do to impact people.”
Since the Ambassadors train in Macedonia, Fortune has gotten acquainted with a number of current and former players at Hudson over the years.
A number of them made quite an impression on the longtime soccer aficionado. And it had nothing to do with kicking a ball.
“I was really impressed with the culture and how the players went about it,” Fortune said. “Hudson seemed like a very unified community. I really loved how they related to each other. Honestly, I was touched by it.”
Fortune will have his share of talented players at his disposal, too.
Despite some key injuries and a number of youngsters on the roster, the Explorers reached Division I district play after a so-so regular season last fall.
Hudson has had plenty of success on the pitch for much of the 21st century, but its legacy in recent years might be described this way: very good, but not great.
Hudson has not advanced to the sweet sixteen since 2010 and has not reached the state finals in 19 years. The Explorers won their lone state championship in 2000.
“The main thing is to be willing to accept what the game is going to offer,” Fortune said. “When you face a top team, you might have to defend for 80 percent of the game. If you’re facing a team that’s not as strong, you try to break them down. You have to do what needs to be done and not what you want to do.”
Fortune’s assistant coaches are Josh Heuttich and Mark Bezdek, who are coaches for the Hudson United Soccer Club.
These two longtime coaches hope their partnership with the new head man will provide the stroke of “fortune” on Hudson Aurora Road for many years to come.
“I’m so happy to be coaching locally in the community,” Fortune said. “I’m almost more nervous now. It’s different from coaching pro players because with these girls, they will be hanging on every word you say. You have to be extremely careful and thoughtful.”
It’s a good bet Fortune and his new team won’t put up a zero like his previous team did 13 years ago. He plans to hang around Hudson Memorial Stadium for more than two months as well.
“I learned a lot about coaching from that experience,” Fortune said. “It takes a long time to build relationships. It’s a long-term investment. In the professional world, relationships don’t matter, but results do. It becomes a lot more personal on the youth level. You get to know the families.
“It’s a really good situation. I’m ready to go.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Faceto_Gannett.