For anyone who has ever helped to prepare and lead a team into battle, the greatest ambition is to be the head coach.<P> It is the pulse and their driving force. It is what makes them want to succeed.<P> For Darren Ambrose, that opportunity has arrived.<P> After serving as an assistant coach for three different colleges, Ambrose, a former standout collegiate goalkeeper, is relishing his opportunity as the new head coach of the Penn women's soccer team.<P> "It's nice to be able to put my ideas on the field as opposed to help putting ideas on the field," <P>Ambrose said, citing the added benefits of being a head coach. "I'm now running my own program as opposed to helping with someone else's program."<P> Despite never being a collegiate head coach, Ambrose's resume is long on experience.<P> Born near Sheffield, England, Ambrose began his soccer career at a young age, playing soccer with the youth programs of Sheffield United of the English first division and later Doncaster Rovers of the English third division.<P> After playing the sport he loved throughout his childhood and teenage years, Ambrose packed his bags and traveled across the Atlantic to take his soccer skills to the United States, where he enrolled at Division II national power South Carolina-Spartanburg.<P> As the starting goalkeeper for the Spartanburg Rifles, Ambrose quickly made his presence felt, shattering many school records on the way to a 41-13-4 career record.<P> Ambrose led USCS to the NCAA Tournament in 1991 and 1992 before being named the Adidas National Player of the Year for the '92-93 season.<P> After his days in college, Ambrose spent one year playing for the Columbia Spirit of the United States Indoor Soccer League before beginning his promising coaching career.<P> He served as the men's assistant coach at Connecticut under legendary head coach Joe Morrone followed by a three-year stint as the men's and women's assistant coach at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.<P> At Rhodes, Ambrose compiled a record of 77-33-3 while helping lead the squad to two NCAA Tournament appearances and a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.<P> After his tenure at Rhodes, Ambrose continued to climb the coaching ladder, becoming the assistant coach at Florida State under former Penn head coach Patrick Baker, serving there one year before getting his big break with the Quakers.<P> "I have put myself in situations where I was always working with great coaches," Ambrose said. "I have reaped the benefits of all of the coaches that I have worked under."<P> His success as a coach should benefit a Quakers team which is already near the top of its game.<P> Since its inception in 1991, the Penn women's soccer team has made great strides and last year made it to its first-ever NCAA Tournament.<P> "Last year was a crescendo for this team and the product of years of hard work," Ambrose said. "I feel a little pressure to make sure the success continues, but I would not have come here if I didn't think that I could win and help the program continue to move upwards."<P> Ambrose, with his impressive coaching history, should have no problem helping the Quakers continue the program's upward strides.<P> "Darren has come from great programs and has coached with great coaches," newly appointed assistant coach Michelyne Pinard said. "He has a lot to offer the women's game."<P> Despite the Red and Blue's recent success, however, it is still faced with the daunting situation of trying to adapt to its third coach in as many years.<P> "We all resist change, but the juniors and seniors have done a fantastic job of adapting and being open-minded to new ideas," Ambrose said. "With a new coach and 12 freshmen, the team has had to adjust a lot and has done a great job with it."<P> As a player, Ambrose found himself in a similar situation as the athletes on his newly inherited Quakers squad, also having three different coaches in his collegiate career. He is thus quite familiar with the difficult transition that his players now encounter, and he will work hard to familiarize himself with the team and overcome the problems that could arise.<P> While Ambrose will soon lead his team into competitive Ancient Eight competition in a quest for a second-straight NCAA appearance, he also understands the importance of being a well-rounded student-athlete.<P> An Academic All-American himself in his playing days, Ambrose believes that the Quakers should focus on their studies and their other in-school commitments as much as soccer.<P> In addition, Ambrose has set a team goal of 100 hours of community service each semester.<P> "Student-athletes benefit by helping in the community," Ambrose said. "It puts things in perspective, and it is the idea of having a higher education.<P> "Our aim is to help and to be role models."<P> One thing is for certain. Ambrose is an excellent role model for his team -- both on and off the field.Comments powered by Disqus
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