GREENFIELD — Matt McConnell is well aware of the rich soccer history surrounding Hancock County.
As a Mt. Vernon graduate, how could he forget?
After being a part of the Greenfield-Central boys soccer program for the past eight seasons, McConnell, a longtime assistant and former junior varsity coach, will be the new man in charge after being hired by school board in July.
McConnell, who works as a production director at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield, graduated from Mt. Vernon in 1999.
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“He knows how our program operates and how our athletic administration operates,” Greenfield-Central athletic director Jared Manning said. “He is a man of character and he conducts himself very well. He also handles difficult situations well. Continuing our program on the right track, he was the best fit to do that.”
And he’s had plenty of practice.
After playing soccer as a freshman at Mt. Vernon, McConnell took to the sidelines his sophomore year of high school to coach (recreational league). And after taking time off during high school, McConnell hit the fields once again as a goalkeeper at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn. for four seasons.
McConnell, who is married to Dana McConnell, has two young children, Tyler, 6, and Josie, 1, with another due in January. He said deciding to take over the program is all about his second set of kids, the student-athletes at Greenfield-Central.
“The reason I coach is I want to make a difference in the lives of the kids,” McConnell said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to, and soccer is a great way to do that. I love the game and I love what it brings out in kids. It’s an honor (to be named head coach).”
One of his main goals, already, is to get players in his program to play at the next level.
McConnell also was quick to point out his experienced coaching staff, too, which features faces that are very familiar around Hancock County.
Bobby Holden, who graduated from Greenfield-Central in 2004, serves as the USF Real (Greenfield soccer club) director of coaching and joins the Hoosier Heritage Conference once again after stints with Pendleton Heights and New Palestine between the 2009-14 seasons.
He coached the Arabians during the 2009-10 seasons and was with the Dragons between 2011-15. During the 2012 season, he coached both the New Palestine boys and girls teams and has a sectional and regional title under his belt.
Holden also played goal in college at Anderson University and later helped coach the Ravens, as well. He spent one season at Ball State.
“I am very excited to be coaching at Greenfield-Central and assisting coach McConnell,” Holden said. “I have been doing soccer here since I was 4 years old. McConnell was a great choice for the position. The boys respond to him so well and respect him a ton. They are really excited to play for him.
“We are pushing a ‘family’ atmosphere at Greenfield-Central.”
Jeremiah Spencer, also a Greenfield-Central graduate, will help lead the junior varsity squad while Marc Redick, who helped with the JV last year, returns with a great rapport with the athletes, Holden said.
Greenfield-Central finished 9-6-2 overall last season under head coach Isaac Beal and 5-2 in the HHC behind Mt. Vernon and New Palestine, who were both 6-1.
The Cougars said farewell to seven seniors and must replace leading scorer Enrique Ferrara and keeper Eli Diehr. Ferrara scored 18 goals in 2015 and was named Daily Reporter Player of the Year his junior season.