BY DAN STICKRADT
ALPENA — Tim Storch is in need of a new wardrobe.
The recent Troy to Alpena transplant must trade in his gold and red for some green and white. One of the state’s all-time winningest soccer coaches at the high school level while at Troy Athens High School, Storch has been named the new boys and girls head soccer coach at Alpena High School.
Storch spent the past 30 years as a teacher and coach at Troy Athens and moved to Alpena after his June retirement. The Alpena School District made it official back on June 13 and Storch is in the final stages preparing for his first season in the Big North Conference, where the Wildcats, 6-12-1 last season, will tangle with the likes of Cadillac, Petoskey, Gaylord, Traverse City West and Traverse City Central.
“The community has been great so far,” said Storch, whose family has had a summer home north of Alpena for many years. “They are great people and they are eager.
“I am going to have to purchase some different clothes,” he joked. “I am going to have to lose the gold and red and replace it with green and white, just like my high school colors for (Birmingham Groves). It’s hard, but I am ready for the new challenge.”
Storch graduated from Groves in 1977 when soccer was just starting to get a foot hold in Michigan. He played goalkeeper for Central Michigan and then headed to Athens after his college graduation, where he began the first varsity program in 1981.
Alpena does not have much tradition in soccer, winning only a couple of district crowns in school history. Storch has some plans to build Alpena up into a quality program over the next couple of years. Storch is 1-0 lifetime against Alpena, defeating the Wildcats in the 1986 Class A regional finals.
Alpena last won a boys district crown in 1997, according to the MHSAA.
“There is some talent up here. I have a couple of kids who are like a lot of the players in the (Oakland Activities Association), but it’s not like we have a whole team of them,” offered Storch. “There are some kids, based on what I have seen, that can play college soccer.”
Storch said it will take some time getting to know most of the people around Alpena and the soccer community of the northeastern Lower Peninsula.
“The way it worked out, I didn’t have the chance with camps this summer, but we will really push that next summer,” said Storch. “The next six months, I will be doing a lot of watching and listening and trying to learn the (soccer community). I have to build a relationship with the youth programs and help make them stronger.”
Storch’s family has had a home on Grand Lake north of Alpena for decades and has relocated to that residence permanently, so he knows the area geographically.
When he announced his retirement from Athens in mid-May, he began conversations with Alpena administration, who were quick to make the hire.
Storch said he publically kept it quiet of his new destination until his girls team was finished in the state tournament in June. Athens reached the regional semifinals before falling to Utica Eisenhower, 3-2, in a shootout.
Although there are fewer large schools in northern Michigan and less soccer history, it is not short on potential.
One aspect that Storch likes is the multi-sport athlete, which has faded in the suburban Detroit area but is still very much alive in the Alpena area.
“We have a lot of hockey and baseball players that are very good athletes and decent soccer players,” offered Storch. “They are well-rounded athletes, although soccer is not the No. 1 sport for some of them. We hope to help create a program where soccer will be the No. 1 sport for some of them. I like multi-sport athletes. You can’t teach athleticism, but you can make athletes into good soccer players.
“I really like our junior class — there is some better talent up here than most people know about,” said Storch. “It just needs to be organized.”
With practices beginning Aug. 10 and the season opener against Tawas Area on Aug. 23, there is not much time to get his feet wet. Storch plans on establishing a quality program sooner than later.
“I know it does not happen overnight, but I think we have a group of kids that can be competitive,” said Storch. “Up here, high school sports is the only thing — it means everything to the community. The (Director of Athletics Brian Tippman) was telling me the other day that I can build a winner, then they will give me the keys to the city.”
Tim Storch did just that 30 years ago at Troy Athens, helping that school become a state powerhouse soccer program. Now he’ll try it again at Alpena.
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