With practices around the corner for the fall soccer season, new St. Helens Athletics Director Matt Morgan sees finding a boys' soccer coach as his top priority

Sitting amidst the balmy Floridian sunshine, Matt Morgan had a serious conundrum to consider: he worked at a large middle school between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and a prospective employer was asking him to drive almost 3,300 miles to Oregon for an interview.

But holding off was completely out of the question.

Matt Morgan“I loaded up my little six by 12 U-Haul trailer with all my worldly possessions and drug it across the country,” said Morgan, who was hired in June to replace retiring St. Helens High School Athletics Director Cyndy Miller.

Principal B.G. Aguirre named Morgan as a finalist after an interview over Skype, and asked to meet him in person, but there was a problem: school was still in session, and the journey from one tip of the country to the other would have to be done at lightning speed.

“She wanted me there on Friday the 13th of June, and the last day of school for me was June 6, so I said ‘Well, if all goes well I can get out of town on the 9th, but getting to you in four days is going to be a little tough,'” said Morgan. “And I was here on Saturday at noon.”

So far, Morgan says, the trip has been worth it. He grew up in the small town of Burns, which sits about 130 miles east of Bend and has a bustling population of a little less than 3,000. That's been the barometer for Morgan, who said a small town is his “speed,” welcoming the tight-knit setting where everyone is invested and involved.

“That's what I expected, and that's what I was looking for,” he said. “Everything about this move has been positive, and a good fit.”

Facing Morgan is a fresh challenge. While he's been coaching basketball for many years and has been heavily involved with middle school athletics, this is his first high school position. There's plenty to learn: the last time he was connected with high school football was back in the late 1960s when he suited up the purple and gold, playing for the fighting Highlanders.

Times have changed. Now, he's a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan – “I liked the colors, the choices you make when you're 10.” – And plans to sit back and simply drink in the experience of the first go-round of high school athletics.

“My first year is just going to be watching how things operate,” said Morgan. “The coaches I've spoken to [the message has been] ‘if you did it last year, it made sense and it worked, do it again’” I'm not here to shake anything up or to change anything. That's not a wise way to go about a new position, especially one this big. I'll take this year to see how things go and then evaluate at the end of the year and determine if anything needs to change.”

Morgan will have a plate full of responsibilities right out of the gate. The OSAA is ushering in new laws about how football practice is supposed to be run, the Northwest Oregon Conference has two new schools to coordinate with and there are still four head coaches to be hired.

The biggest of the four, obviously, is the vacant mens' soccer coaching position, which was left vacant after Oscar Monteblanco left to become the new head mens' soccer coach at Chemeketa Community College following last season.

Morgan said he had seen several candidates for the basketball position, but as they each fell through, he would have to turn his focus to the immediate need. Soccer practices start on August 18, and Morgan hoped to have chosen a candidate by August 6 and have them in place soon afterward.

There are plenty of things to keep in mind. The essential coaching abilities are part of the criteria, but for Morgan, he said he would like to see a coach stick around and spend time investing in the kids, the program and the community.

At the moment, though Morgan wants to be careful and pick the best person for the job, it's beginning to come down to the wire.

“They've been doing their summer workouts without a head coach,” said Morgan. “We've already shorted the kids, which we're in the business of what's best for students and what's best for athletes and what's best for kids, so on our part, we've cheated them a little bit by not having someone in place.”

As for the basketball coaching position, Morgan said he wouldn't consider taking the roll in the event that a suitable person doesn’t turn up, simply because there are already so many responsibilities. At the end of it all, Morgan intends to be sure the schooling comes first, the fun comes second and the scoreboard isn't the measuring stick of success.

“My main goal is for coaches and kids to have a good, fun, positive experience,” said Morgan. “Win, lose... that will take care of itself, and that's really not the most important thing. I want them to be able to finish the season, look back with fond memories and have a great time playing.”

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