When Roland Benedict began playing competitive sports, every person in the small Montana town of Bigfork (Bigfork is home to just over 4,000 permanent residents) knew that he was destined for greatness. Most just didn’t know what sport he would settle on. After tying up a stellar high school basketball career, Benedict began mulling over offers from high level Division 1 programs throughout the United States, including Pac-12 juggernaut University of Southern California (USC). The only problem? Benedict’s true passion was on the soccer pitch.
While Bigfork High School wasn’t known for its soccer program, and failed to make the Montana HIgh School playoffs in any of Benedict’s four seasons with the program, he made a name for himself through his incredible individual performances. Known as a deadly goal scorer with incredible vision, Benedict’s performance garnered him All-State recognition. Still, single A Montana soccer did not aptly prepare him for his next step; international professional soccer.
As an eighteen year old, Roland made the decision to move to England with his father Dirk Benedict, a highly respected actor, known primarily for his role as Lieutenant Templeton Peck in The A-Team television series. After renting out a flat and working diligently through individual sessions, Roland finally got his big break: a one-day trial with Kent County club, Gillingham F.C.
His first day in a professional athletic atmosphere, Benedict learned a number of invaluable lessons, none bigger than the blatant fact that he wasn’t in Montana anymore. “I was a little behind,” states Benedict, as he recalled his trial at Gillingham. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t play at that level, I think it was, I got away with things technically, that I couldn’t at that level.” Specifically, Roland cited a higher demand for tighter touches and an increased level of physicality.
Still, despite the massive jump in level, Benedict’s ability to rapidly adapt, served him well, as he was ultimately given an extended trial with Gillingham’s rival club, Southend United. After spending 5 months with Southend United, playing primarily with the youth and reserve teams, Roland temporarily moved back to the States.
After a brief stint with a Premier Development League (PDL) club in Los Angeles, Benedict began coaching at a California High School, when out of nowhere, the strangest of things happened: monster club, Manchester City contacted him to attend their pre-season camp..
After spending the 2010 pre-season with Manchester, City management wanted to send Benedict to Italy’s Serie B. But after a lackluster performance in the 2010 World Cup, Italy looked to reinvest in their nation’s youth, and tightened up visa opportunity for international players. In the end, Roland was ultimately sent to Belgium. While attending tryouts with 6 different clubs throughout Belgium, Benedict was faced with a new challenge: fitting into a foreign culture, with a different language, in an incredibly competitive environment.
“When you’re on trial, besides the owners and the coaches, no one really wants you on the team, because you’re coming and you’re probably going to take someone else’s spot,” stated Benedict, as he looked back on the difficulties of playing in Belgium. Yet despite the adversity, he was able to sign a contract with Racing Gent. After spending a year with Racing Gent, Benedict was denied a visa by the Belgium government, and returned home to the United States.
Today, Roland finds himself in Whitefish, Montana, less than 40 miles away from his hometown of Bigfork. WIth his love for the game as strong as ever, it should come as no surprise that Roland has become an integral part of Whitefish’s thriving soccer community. Serving as Head Coach of the Whitefish High School girls varsity soccer program, Roland has turned Whitefish into a perennial playoff threat, including an impressive semi-final appearance this past Fall. Roland is also currently the director of the Flathead Rapids mentorship program, and has helped developed dozens of young talents throughout the State. As co-founder of Legend Soccer Co., Roland is proud to have worked to develop a product forwarding sustainability in a sporting world in desperate need of it...