Kuyper men’s soccer returns to the pitch in the fall of 2024, and first-year coach Mike Colago can’t wait.
For one, the Cougars will have a chance to compete for an NCCAA National Championship already in 2024.
But beyond that, the first game of the year will mark an important milestone in the Kuyper men’s soccer journey.
“We are hitting the recruiting trail hard, and we already have been hosting open gyms and watching guys play,” Colago said. “You can tell a lot from a player when they walk in the gym and start competing and interacting with others. I love the challenge in putting different personalities together, and when we have that first game in the fall, we’ll start to see what we have and where we are going.”
Colago said his sales pitch to prospective recruits is simple.
“If they are a player who wants to actually play all four years, then Kuyper is the place for them,” he said. “We are building a foundation here, and this class will set the tone for years to come. I am a player’s coach, meaning I believe the Lord put them in my life not as an accident but as a chance to minister to them and them minister to me.”
As a high school coach, Colago led The Potter’s House School to a state championship in Michigan in 2021. He then spent one season as an assistant coach at Grand Rapids Community College before prayerfully considering the new position at Kuyper.
“I was looking for another level of challenge in coaching soccer, and after we won a state championship, I wanted to pursue coaching further and see what the college position was all about. GRCC gave me a chance to learn the world of recruiting and training sessions that challenged and grew the players. When I saw the Kuyper position, I had to take a look. I am very grateful to President Harris, Athletic Director Bailey and the entire Kuyper community for welcoming me into a great culture and community.”
Colago said that he wasn’t a player who was highly sought out in high school.
“I had a few local D3 offers out of high school and a junior college offer in southern Minnesota from Bethany Lutheran College,” he said. “I knew I could play and had been a team captain, all conference and all state, so the goal with JUCO was to see if I could be noticed in a few years to play at a higher level.”
Colago spent two years at Bethany Lutheran where he was not just the team MVP but also a JUCO All American. He then went to North Park University in Chicago where he started every game as a forward and went to the 2006 NCAA D3 national tournament.
“I was a physical player who loved defending all over the pitch, which is what I like my teams to do for me now,” he said with a smile. “I am going to teach and educate the game of soccer, but eventually the players have to lead. We as coaches provide a system, and then, within that structure, it’s awesome when the players take over and own the big moments.”
Colago is also a product of the coaches he has had in the past, he added.
“I had some great soccer minds feeding into me when I was coming up through high school and college,” he said. “Now I am looking forward to passing it on to the next generation of footballers.”Colago earned an associate’s degree at Bethany Lutheran and a bachelor’s degree at North Park. He also has soccer certifications in Attacking Principles of Play, Advanced Technical Training and Formations and Systems of Play.