BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
Jim Duncan is a familiar face on the Jefferson County soccer landscape.
He coach Rend Lake College's soccer squad from 2008 to 20011 and most recently was an assistant coach for the Rams soccer team.
Earlier this week, the MVTHS Board of Education named him the school's next boys and girls coach.
"I've always had an interest in coaching soccer," Duncan said. "It goes way back to my boys being involved in the (YMCA).
"I want to see the soccer program continue. I want to see it grow. I want to move it forward."
He takes over for Jeff Harrison, who resigned from the position at the conclusion of the girls season this spring. Duncan is the first person outside the Harrison family to run the program since its inception. Jeff's father Steve founded soccer at Mt. Vernon in 2001.
"I really want to thank those two guys for real sacrifices that they have made since the conception of the program," Duncan said. "Our oldest son was there the first year so the Duncan family has been with the high school program from the get-go. I just remember all the hard work that Steve put in, and then when Jeff joined him, he jumped right in."
The new coach said skill development and tactical knowledge are keys for the program as it moves forward.
"I just think we can move the program forward a little bit more if we concentrate more on training and developing skills for both the boys and the girls program," Duncan said. "If we'll focus on training, making players better just in the basics of dribbling, passing, shooting, but also understanding the tactical aspects of the game that we're going to win more games.
"We want to develop players so we can win more games. I think that's the approach we're going to take."
The ultimate goal is equipping players with enough skills, respect and knowledge of the sport so they can play in college.
"Those kinds of kids are going to have opportunities to go elsewhere and play at the collegiate level," Duncan said. "Sort of trying to develop the whole package is what we're trying to do."
Duncan said his time at Rend Lake will benefit him and his teams.
"I think I know what (juniors and seniors) have to be able to accomplish in order for a college coach to take a look at them, for them to get on their radar," Duncan said.
The boys team is currently conducting its summer training. The group will focus on conditioning and also increasing their understanding of the game.
"It will make getting ready for August a lot easier," Duncan said.
Mt. Vernon's boys team finished last season with a 4-3 loss in the regional final against Marion. The Lady Rams were knocked out of the opening regional round after a 6-1 defeat.