By G. Demarest
When Manzano High School’s soccer season gets underway next week both the boys and girls teams will be sporting new coaches.
Jerry Duran is now piloting the boys squad while Todd Alam is at the helm of the girls team.
Duran and Alam are both first-time varsity head coaches and are taking over programs that have struggled for several years. Both coaches have similar blueprints for turning their respective programs around.
“Right after I took over I started coming up with a plan as to how we were going to rebuild this whole thing,” said Duran, who replaced Travis Nau. “So now we’re going to try and get this program back on track.”
The Monarchs won only one game last season, and just two the year before, so Duran knows he has some work to do, starting with academics. “Grades come first, that’s important to me,” Duran said. “If you can’t take care of your obligations in the classroom, I can’t let you take care of your obligations on the field.”
Duran was an assistant coach at district-rival La Cueva for the last three years, and interestingly, his son still plays soccer for La Cueva so they’ll be going toe-to-toe twice a year.
Duran said with the combination of returning upperclassmen and young players he wants teamwork to also be a priority.
“We’ve got some good talent,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting them to mesh together and become a unit. We’ve got to build team cohesion—this is a team sport and everybody’s got to buy into the system because if they don’t then we have a chink in the armor.”
Duran said he wants the players to be leaders on the field and in the community, and to take pride in being a Monarch. “I told the boys, ‘I don’t waste my time on things I don’t believe in and I believe in you, so you need to learn to believe in yourselves.’”
The season kicks off Aug. 24 when the Monarchs host West Mesa.
On the girls’ side, Alam said he took the reins because he has “a vested interest in Manzano.” He’s been an assistant with the program the last few years while his older daughter—who graduated last May—played for the team.
Alam also has a younger daughter who’s a freshman on the team so he plans on being around for at least another four years.
Having been overseeing the summer workout programs, Alam said the girls are already headed in the right direction.
“I have a really great set of girls,” Alam said. “We have a good core of returning players who are dedicated, we have more freshmen than ever, and we’ve instilled a higher work ethic so I think we’ve already made the correct steps for turning this program around.”
Alam said his expectations are high and the girls are “responding very positively.”
He said the Monarchs want to become more of an attacking team, to take more shots-on-goal and to score more often than they did last year. The team only won three games last season and was shut-out in its final nine games.
“We don’t like lopsided losses,” Alam said. “We’d like to have more close games, more games that are within our ability to win.”
With a large number of young players, Alam said he’s also working toward building for the future.
“They all have the belief that they can get better and that’s our goal for the rest of the year—to continue to improve, not only the style of play but the quality of play, and to be thinking about how to improve the team all the time,” he said.
And the key, Alam said, is pride: “Pride in the team, pride in how they do things, they’re taking more pride in everything, and you can see it.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.