West York grad sees soccer journey land in Harrisburg with Heat team he used to follow

Darian McCauley dives to make a save during a Charleston Battery practice. The West York High School graduate recently joined the Harrisburg Heat.

Darian McCauley can remember being dropped off by his parents at Red Rose Arena in Lancaster to play indoor soccer on weekend nights.

He can also remember how that felt.

When he was young, he would watch the Harrisburg Heat games as a fan and enjoyed the chance to compete at the same place where the professionals practiced.

These days, the West York High School and Millersville University graduate is back at the arena where he trained at in his youth as a Heat goalkeeper. The Heat conduct some practices at Red Rose Arena, but play their home games in Harrisburg at the Equine Arena at The Farm Show Complex. The Heat season starts this weekend.

“I remember growing up being younger and stuff going to games,” McCauley said. “It's kind of an odd feeling, I guess, where it's like, ‘OK, wow, I grew up kind of watching this team being in that same arena as these games and going and watching the team play and now it's like, all right, wow, I get to suit up for them.’”

McCauley left Millersville in 2020 tied for the program’s lead in career shutouts (24) and second in career wins (42). He joined the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League after college but didn’t have his contract renewed last season.

Finding a passion for coaching: Without a team to play for in 2021, McCauley found ways to remain involved in the sport.

He returned to Millersville as a volunteer goalkeeper coach and started training players with his company, Darian McCauley Goalkeeping. 

While he didn’t plan to pursue a career in coaching so soon, McCauley developed a desire for it once he had no other options.

“It was tough to imagine life without soccer and it always has been so even while I was playing, I loved coaching, training and everything with that,” McCauley said. “So when I didn't sign anywhere in the last year, it kind of came about where I was, like, ‘You know what, I can really, kind of run with this and make a career out of my passion.’”

Joining the Heat: McCauley saw on social media some former youth teammates were training for the upcoming Heat season and asked if they needed a goalkeeper. He joined them the next day and eventually earned a tryout for the team. That eventually led to a contract with the indoor soccer squad.

The Heat begins its 30th season this weekend with a pair of Major Arena Soccer League games. Harrisburg travels to Utica on Friday before it returns to Harrisburg for a rematch with Utica for its home opener.

Year away paid dividends: While he is excited to be back in uniform playing games this season, the year away from the field allowed McCauley to find a passion and a career path he wants to pursue once his playing days are done – namely coaching

“I'm gonna play until I really can't and my body doesn't let me anymore, but coaching, I definitely see that long term for me,” McCauley said. “I can't really imagine my life without soccer and it's been pretty much all about that my entire life. So, for me to be able to do it right now as a job to play and as a job as well as coach it, I want to continue with that. I just love that aspect of it, I get to help other people try to achieve what I have and way beyond that, as well as learn things that I didn't know at their age or that I wish I would have known when I was a younger goalkeeper and just help develop them to be the best they can possibly be.”

Reach Rob Rose at sports@yorkdispatch.com.