GREENFIELD — Whether it was at Greenfield-Central High School or Huntington University, Isaac Beal was considered a coach on the soccer field. His achievement of captaincy at both stops speaks to that.
Now, Beal will take his turn coaching from the sideline.
The G-C school board confirmed Beal as the next leader of the varsity boys soccer program Friday morning. He takes over for Jared Manning, who is succeeding the retiring Kevin Horrigan as athletic director.
Beal, a 2009 G-C graduate who went on to play four years for coach Russ Lawson’s Foresters, has been involved with the Cougars’ program for the last 10 years as a player, volunteer coach and assistant coach under Manning.
“I love the soccer program here,” said Beal, who turns 24 next month. “I’ve been apart of it for almost a decade. I played on one of the first-ever middle school club teams in the fall of 2004 and I’ve been a part of the process through the last decade. I played four years and came back as a volunteer assistant to be a part of the program. I wanted to continue to be a part of it and I wanted to bring my experience to the table and lead these athletes. I want to continue to be a part of Greenfield-Central soccer.”
Beal, who graduated from Huntington in 2013 with major in mathematics and a minor in coaching, is an instructional assistant for the special education department at GCHS. He expects to remain in that position for the 2014-15 school year, though he did spend the final 10 weeks of this past school year filling in for a mathematics teacher on maternity leave.
Manning took over as coach prior to Beal’s sophomore season at the high school and said he immediately took note of his former midfielder’s leadership qualities. The 2013 season was Beal’s first as a G-C varsity assistant.
“He was an extension of me on the field,” Manning recalled of Beal’s days playing for the blue and gold. “He knows the game really well. When we had conversations in the summer time, as far as players and what we were doing, those types of conversations don’t happen between a coach and a college kid. You could tell at that point he had a real understanding of what kids needed to be doing.
“Last year, there were a number of times I’d run something by him and he’d tell me, and I’d look at him and say, ‘That’s what I was thinking.’ We were on the same page all year. He’ll be successful and help our program go to where we want it to go.”
A captain at center back his final two seasons at Huntington, Beal was also a two-time NAIA All-America Scholar-Athlete. During his collegiate summers, Beal returned to Greenfield to contribute to the boys soccer program.
“He brings a lot to the table. He did a coaching internship with us and put our players through open fields and a conditioning program that he developed. He also basically ran our team camp that summer,” Manning said. “He has a bit more coaching background than what people think.”
In 2006, Manning was named coach seven years after he graduated from from G-C, so he knows what it’s like to take over a program at a young age.
“It’s not something we haven’t seen before. From a maturity standpoint, he’s actually older. He projects himself as older than he is,” Manning said of Beal. “With his knowledge of the game, it makes it seem like he’s been coaching for more than just a few years. If you can coach, you can coach – and he can coach. I think he’s going to be a good coach.
“To me, age should not be a determining factor on who gets a position, especially when we have to hire a coach that’s able to put practice plans together, develop players and make sure they’re on the same page.”
Beal, who also played four years of basketball and ran track as a Cougar, believes he’s well-prepared for the job.
“I think with any first-year coach, there will be a learning curve. I expect to see some of that,” Beal said. “As far as my age, I do have four years of college experience and being a captain at the college level is far different than in high school; you’re very much an assistant coach on the field. I’ve been a part of the game at a higher level.
“At Huntington, I worked closely with coach Lawson. I’ve been under coach Manning this past season. I do have a lot of experience and a coaching minor. I’m a bit young I guess, but I think I’m ready for it. I’ve got a great support staff. Coach Manning is now the AD; I’ll be able to work closely with him.”
Fourth-year New Palestine boys soccer coach Bobby Holden – a former star keeper at G-C who was 22 when he was hired as Pendleton Heights’ boys soccer coach – wished Beal all the best.
“I’m really excited for him. It’s a good step for his coaching career,” he said. “He was a great player and he’s a good guy.”
Beal is excited to work on proceeding with program’s progression, which won a Hoosier Heritage Conference title and two sectional championships under Manning.
“I really want to continue what we’re doing here. We’ve grown quite a bit, even since I was as player. We went through quite a few losing seasons there, but my senior year, we had a winning season and it’s been on the upswing from there,” Beal said. “We’ve won two sectionals in three years. I want to continue to have a winning tradition and continue that course.”