The men’s soccer team has a new head man.
Following the resignation of former head coach Odie Guzman after the conclusion of the fall season, the Bisons needed a new head coach. They found their man in alumnus and former York College head coach, Jon Ireland.
“It is hard to put into words how excited I am to be coming home,” Ireland said. “Being able to have the opportunity to come back and coach 15 years after playing on the first Harding team is special. I come from a family with seven kids and six of us played here at Harding, so it means a lot.”
Ireland was a member of the first men’s soccer team at Harding from 2000-02. An All-Gulf South Conference selection in 2002, Ireland said that he has fond memories of the positive energy around the program at that time and hopes to recapture that passion as he takes the reins.
“I just remember the excitement when we first started the program and how we had an awesome atmosphere at games,” Ireland said. “We had a lot of community and student support, and I hope to continue to create a buzz about Harding men’s soccer again.”
Creating buzz and excitement is something that Ireland certainly knows about. Ireland has been successful in his previous head coaching stops at Faulkner University, Lipscomb University and York College. He led Faulkner’s women’s team to its first winning season and postseason berth in 2006-07, left Lipscomb’s women’s program as the all-time leader in wins in 2011, and then resurrected York’s men’s team, leading them to the postseason the last two years, including its first winning season in 13 years.
The success of its new coach is a welcome sign for the men’s team, which has yet to have a winning season in its 15-year history. Despite the lack of winning tradition, Ireland said he feels well-equipped to change the culture of the program, but will ultimately put his trust in God.
“Everywhere I’ve been the soccer program has been at the bottom when I first arrived,” Ireland said. “I have been very blessed, because I know that God has been with me every step of the way. I work very hard at building successful programs, but I understand first and foremost God has done it all. My formula is very simple: work hard and leave the rest to Him.”
Ireland said he knows that it will not be an easy path to the top, but that his message to the team from the beginning will be to believe they can win and to always aim for the top.
“The team slogan we will use this year will be ‘dream big,'” Ireland said. “Everything starts with a dream or vision and that is key in creating hope for the program.”