By Mike Deak
NAPPANEE – Everyone says it, many dream about it. Brad Duerksen is actually going to do it.
Duerksen and his family have decided to leave northern Indiana for Florida, that choice forcing him to resign as boys soccer coach at NorthWood High School.
While coaches come and go with regularity, Duerksen is a hallmark coach for the high school. Virtually as long as NorthWood has had a boys soccer program, Duerksen has been the head coach, dating back to the mid-90s when the program got its footing. Joined by assistant coach Egbert Dijkstra for that tenure, Duerksen took the program from literally nothing to its finest season ever last fall, where the team lost in a shootout in the Class 2-A semi-state.
Duerksen notified his team of the decision Monday evening.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching against some phenomenal coaches and players throughout my 24 years at NorthWood,” said Duerksen Monday night. “Our goal from our first season was to teach our boys how to play the game the right way. Creating a culture of winning is not easy at a school that had no real soccer tradition. I am extremely proud of our accomplishments in making the NorthWood soccer program not only relevant in the area but also relevant at the state level in recent years. It was not easy and it didn’t happen overnight.”
Duerksen and his family will relocate to Winter Haven, where a new high school, Horizon High School, is opening in the fall. Duerksen will take over that boys soccer program, and like he did 24 years ago, will attempt to create a new stamp on a new program.
“It is definitely a bittersweet moment for me,” optioned Duerksen. “I love all of my past and present players, and I will be closely following their progress in the future seasons to come. My family and I came to the decision after several weeks of long discussions weighing the options. We feel it is the right time for our family to take on a new adventure. I will have an opportunity to build a new soccer program at a brand new high school called Horizon High School that will open in August of this year.”
NorthWood’s soccer history isn’t very rich, but does have its place. A winner of six sectional titles, NorthWood won three in a row from 2006-08 and another in 2010. The next came in 2014, but the 2020 season was a special one, where not only did NorthWood land within the top 10 in Class 2-A for a portion of the season, but won the sectional, then claimed its first-ever regional championship a week later. In the semi-state, NorthWood and Fort Wayne Canterbury played to a scoreless draw in regulation (even with a Duerksen yellow card!), Canterbury ended the Panther season in the shoot-out, and Duerksen’s final contest in red and black.
“I will miss coaching with my coaching staff, and I’m not sure how I am going to be able to coach without Egbert at my side,” Duerksen said. “I have had the pleasure of coaching alongside Egbert for the past 24 years. It has been my pleasure to help build this soccer program with Egbert at NorthWood, and I am very proud of the accomplishments we have achieved as a program. I have nothing but gratitude to NorthWood High School and the WaNee community for all of the support they have shown me throughout the years.”