Foran's Ben Carlson to play soccer at MIT

Foran High All-Stater Ben Carlson will take his soccer skills to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Foran High All-Stater Ben Carlson will take his soccer skills to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Foran High Athletics / Contributed photo

Ben Carlson views life as a plan waiting to be formulated and then deals with the inevitable changes that occur with a thoughtful purpose.

He also has a voracious appetite for learning and attacking the game of soccer like a chessboard waiting to be conquered.

Those traits have earned Carlson acceptance to one of the nation’s top colleges, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a spot on the MIT men’s soccer team.

Carlson, a 6-foot, 180-pound center back, earned All-State honors twice, was named to the Gametime CT All-State team, took his place on the Olympic Development (ODP) East Region team two times and was nominated to play in the All-American game.

He will be joining MIT coach Ken Bovell’s squad that competes in the Division III New England Women’s and Men’s Conference. In five seasons with the Engineers, Bovell’s teams have made four appearances in the NEWMAC postseason tournament and one appearance in the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer National Championship Tournament.

“The way I looked at it, academics always came first. If I could play soccer it was a bonus. Luckily MIT had that combination of great academics but also a great soccer team,” said Carlson, who will take a hybrid mechanical engineering major that will lead to a spot in the robotic industry after graduation. “MIT is right on the water, it’s amazing for sports and it is right next to Harvard. There are a lot of companies around there giving internships, so it is the optimal place to be.”

Foran head coach Rick DiStefano said that Carlson had an instant impact on the program.

“Ben is an exceptional player and leader. From the first day he came in it was clear that he had a great future with us,” DiStefano said. “Ben started every game of his HS career and is a leader on and off the field. Ben leaves the program as the most decorated player in my tenure as head coach.”

Carlson said that taking his first step on the field for a varsity game was no walk in the park.

“Going into my freshman year, I was afraid to play high school soccer. I made varsity and going into the first game of the season I wasn’t sure if I was going to play,” Carlson said. “Coach started me that first game. He told me to forget everything, play your game. ‘Don’t think of it as anything else than a game and work your hardest. That’s all I care about.’ He never puts pressure on the players. It is his tactics and he would fix things that needed to be fixed. Everything is about building you as a player. His motto is ‘If you are good enough, you are old enough.’”

Carlson’s wariness continued when he was invited to join the ODP program sophomore year.

“Best way I can put it: it was terrifying,” he said. “I was worried going into a state program. To my surprise I was selected. It was kind of the same thing that happened at Foran my freshman year, the coach basically said go in with no fear. When we went into the multi-state regional tournament we did very well. He kept playing me and that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Carlson as the center back gets to quarterback his team.

“You are the last line of defense and I’ve always dealt well with pressure, so fitting into that role and being almost an anchor and a voice for my team is where I want to be,” he said. “I feel I could play other positions, like outside back or midfield up to striker, but I would rather supply that security for my team in the back.”

DiStefano said: “Ben reads the game very well and directs the shape and tactics of the team during the match. He can always be relied upon to be in the right place and put in the right tackle every time. He knows how to get the best out of every teammate.”

Carlson credited Foran keeper Luca Marinelli much of the communication.

“Luca is a different breed of keeper,” Carlson said of his All-State earning classmate. “He has that tactical awareness. He always backs you up, lets you know where everyone is on the field and I never have to worry about a goal going into him. We could feed off each other with strategy. After games we’d sit down and talk about what do we need to change, how can the team work better together. He truly understood what I understood about the game.”

COVID-19 took DiStefano and the Foran coaching staff away for the postseason.

Carlson said: “When the coach went out it was difficult to rally the team especially because he was the main figure of support. I have to say the seniors and the juniors stepped up and drove the team. It was nice to see even with COVID that there was a unity with the team.”

Carlson has the utmost respect for DiStefano and his coaching style.

“The best way I can put it is that Coach DiStefano is like a father figure on the team. He will break down everything you are not doing well, but also support you. He will critique you so that you will be a better player than you were. But when you make a mistake, he is always there to back you up. He never points the finger (of blame) He is an amazing coach. He always working on the tactical side.”

DiStefano said: “Ben put an incredible amount of time, effort and commitment into being the best he can be at whatever he does. I’m confident that he will excel at MIT both in the classroom and on the pitch.”

DAUNTING INTRODUCTION

Getting the needed materials to MIT for early action gave Carlson a look into the future.

“November 1 was the deadline for everything, but I had to start writing the application in May because there are 12 essays,” he said. “It was crazy getting all the forms sent out, rewriting essays and getting ready for interviews. While the success rate is high, the amount of work you have to put in is beyond mind boggling. I’m ready to put in the work. Balancing soccer and MIT academics will be daunting but I’m ready to take on that challenge. MIT was always my peak school, my dream school.”

PANDEMIC GETS PERSONAL

In December, despite staying away from people Carlson was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“It was a freak event, so I understand the effects of COVID,” Carlson said. “I ran two days of 104 fever and a couple of other minor symptoms (loss of taste and smell). I had much milder symptoms then most.”

His parents, mom Elise a rheumatologist, and dad Andy a pediatrician, have been on the frontline since the pandemic struck.

“They have been amazing,” Carlson said. “They have been working long hours from 5 in the morning until 7 at night. Every time they come home, we always have dinner together and they are willing to help me with what I need. Even with all that stress with COVID that is put on them -- and knowing people in the community that have been affected -- they have been very good at managing that stress. Even in these dark times they have been made sure I’m okay and they keep things bright. I’ll always be grateful to them.”

BOARD OF EDUCATION

Carlson and likeminded students at Foran and Jonathan Law meet with the Board of Education to update members on their schools

“It is very important to me. I feel that Foran has a community that is diverse. I believe informing the Board of what we do and the activities that we have is important especially this year with virtual learning,” Carlson said. “I think what the Board has done is amazing. I think their getting student feedback and what we are transitioning to is important.

“At the beginning when everyone was trying to get used to what COVID was about, things were disorganized,” he noted. “Now all the teachers and administrators are amazing. They are all working their hardest to make sure we get the same education we normally would.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354