Chris Duke is set to lead Timberwolf pack
TUALATIN — Soccer.
It's been a big part of Chris Duke's life — in many, many aspects.
"I've just lived and breathed soccer my whole life," Duke said earlier this week, standing on the turf field at Tualatin High School following a boys soccer camp session. "Coming up playing, then working in it, and now coaching it, I can't say enough about all the opportunities I've had."
And there have been many. Soccer, in part, has taken Duke to various parts of the world. Now, he's looking at a brand new soccer opportunity, and he's pretty happy about it.
Duke, who turns 35 this week, takes over this year as the new boys soccer varsity head coach at Tualatin High School.
"High school coaching is the best," Duke said. "It's really fun to work with the guys who want to put on the school logo and represent the team, all pulling toward one goal. To be able to be at the head of that, to help shape that and work with guys to get better individually, to get better collectively with such a great game, it's fantastic."
Duke, who grew up in Eugene, played for South Eugene High School, and was part of the school's powerhouse boys soccer teams of the early 2000s. He also played club ball for McKenzie United.
From South Eugene, Duke moved onto Northwestern University, located in Evanston, Ill.
"After I graduated, I kind of switched into sports business side of things. So I worked in the athletic department at Northwestern University," Duke said. "I got into the marketing side of it. I worked with CBS Sports Marketing, and then I got a job with U.S. Soccer Federation. So I had a chance with my time there, I was part of the group that put together the development academy, which is where a lot of guys that don't play high school ball get into the developmental stuff."
While working with the U.S. Soccer Federation, Duke got the chance to observe, and learn from, some of the best.
"It was great," he said. "I got to be in the room with the national team coaches, when they were talking about what they wanted out of it. I was just kind of a fly on the wall there, and just made it happen. I was responsible for the implementation of it, and the logistics. I got to do some of the game-day stuff with the national men's and women's teams. I wasn't a national team player, or a national team coach, but I was around them, which was great. I was living the soccer life."
And Duke was also learning a lot about the soccer life.
"I took in quite a bit," he said. "I was responsible for putting on the (ages) U13 national team camp. So, we flew in the top 13-year-olds from throughout the country. We spent a week in Massachusetts with that. So, during that week, being on the sidelines and seeing all the coaching, I took in a lot. There are little bits and pieces of that which I can use with these guys. Living and working and breathing soccer all the time was great."
Soccer, and education, then took Duke abroad. He first taught, and coached soccer, at the St. John Mary International School in Thailand from August 2011 through July 2013. Duke then taught, and coached soccer, at the Bavarian International School in Germany from August of 2013 through June of 2015.
"When I was working with the team in Germany, we'd go around playing games against teams up and down Germany, over into Italy and Austria, with players from all over the place," Duke said. "It was great."
Since then, Duke has returned to Oregon. He is about to start his fifth year as a social studies teacher at Tualatin High School. He's also been an assistant boys soccer coach for the Timberwolves the past three years under head coach Sean McMahon.
"It's been great working with Sean, getting to know this program, this school and this league," Duke said. "Being a part of it as an assistant has been great. Sean is a great coach. He's done a lot of good work here. I feel fortunate to take over a program that has so many good things already going on. I want to try and continue with all the things that are great about this program, while also trying to help it take the next step forward."
Duke is taking over a Tualatin team that finished in third place in the Three Rivers League standings at 4-2, while going 12-3 on the season. The Timberwolves also reached the Class 6A state playoffs, whee they were edged 3-2 by Liberty in a rain-soaked first-round match.
Tualatin graduated 16 seniors from that team, including Mario Quiterio, who shared the Three Rivers League Player of the Year honor.
"I think, honestly, we were blessed with a great group of seniors last year," Duke said. "We had guys making all-league up and down, so we lost a lot of players. But we have some good players coming back."
Among the possible key returnees for the Wolves will be seniors-to-be Nathan Buckalew and Hunter Popma.
"We have guys like Nathan and Hunter, and some other guys coming back that we can build around," Duke said. "And we had a really good JV team last year, and those guys are ready to take the next step."
No matter who is on the field for the Wolves this fall, Duke knows what he's looking for from the team.
"We're going to preach the fundamentals. We're going to be a very blue-collar team," Duke said. "We'll be a team that tries to outwork everyone. We want to embrace the hard work and physical demands, and gets enjoyment out of that. Hopefully, we'll be a group that feels like a group. It will be 11 guys that know their role on the team, and understand what they need to get done each Tuesday and each Thursday night. I want that to be the hallmark of our team."
And it's a team, Duke says, that is ready to take the next step.
"We're looking to build of culture of commitment and hard work. We want to take care of things off the field as well," he said. "We're a team that has had regular-season success, but, realistically, we're a team that hasn't won a playoff game in awhile, and I think we have a group that is anxious to change that, and take that next step forward. That's the task for us, and I think we've got a lot of guys who want to buy into that."
Duke's coaching staff at Tualatin includes Andrew Egan, Trevor Owens and Alfreda Texta, who all return from last year.
"It's a good opportunity to keep what's great here while also moving forward," Duke said. "It's off to a great start. The transition has been really smooth. I've been really impressed with the buy-in. I've been enjoying it. It's great."
The Tualatin boys soccer team will opens its season on Sept. 5, when it hosts Grant in a non-league match starting at 7 p.m.
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