By: Natalie Lorenzo, Editorial staff (‘23)
Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, Indian Hills High School welcomed a new athletic director: Jon Duncan. Originally from Connecticut, Mr.Ducan was a baseball and football player in high school. After attending Seton Hall University, he decided to remain in New Jersey. Following college, he coached baseball and football for over 10 years, and now he coaches his kids on the recreation level. At first, Mr. Ducan was a special education teacher until the athletic director at his previous school was leaving the position. He became the athletic director at Ridgefield Park High School before making the transition to Hills. Mr.Duncan has made a huge impact in the first few months of the school year, bringing a blast of positive energy, and increasing the already powerful school spirit at Indian Hills. He can be seen at every sporting event taking pictures and cheering for the team that’s playing. He also runs the Indian Hills Athletics Instagram (@ihhs_athletics), which gives score and winner alerts throughout almost every sporting event. While he captures many aspects of football games, Mr.Duncan also takes photos and videos of the cheerleaders, marching band, and student section to make sure everyone is included.
Not only has Mr.Duncan made a great first impression on the students and faculty at Indian Hills, but Indian Hills has made a great first impression on him. He stated,
“I absolutely love it. Without pause, without thinking twice about it. It has been fast, it’s been a lot since I’ve stepped in the door. But I have found that the students here are absolutely amazing, they are awesome. And I think that as I get to know them better and as they get to know me better, that relationship is gonna grow even stronger. I have had a couple of people come in here and say ‘I didn’t even know this office existed’ and ‘I have never been here before’ and I am going to try to change that and kinda make it so I am interacting with everybody.”
Mr. Duncan has already begun holding true to that statement as many students can be seen talking with him in the hallways, or even just exchanging salutations in passing.
Mr. Duncan also commented on how he understands that some things around Hills, especially in regard to athletics, need some changes. He stated,
“They [the staff and others in the FLOW community] have no problem voicing their opinion. When I first started, everyone was letting me know what they thought needed to be done, or needed to be changed, or even just what I should look at or that sort. But I don’t mind the good with the bad. I don’t mind that because I’m walking into situations that I did not create and that I did not have control over, but I am just feeling my way through and kinda getting an idea as to how things work around here. I am definitely open to hearing people’s opinions and what they say about stuff. But ultimately, this is evaluated and analyzed to see how to best change things moving forward. So I welcome that. But I have also noticed real fast that it is not all negative. That the community has reached out to say how awesome things are or to offer help and support and want to see things changed for the better. And overall, the main thing with Indian Hills is the strong community feel.”
As previously mentioned, Mr. Duncan can be seen cheering at many sporting events, but this is highlighted at football games. He commented on the student section stating,
“I think it is a fantastic student section based on what I have seen. I know that the football team isn’t the most successful at the moment, but we are currently working on that… to see the student body come out full force with theme nights, everyone is bought into the themes, and dressed up for the appropriate theme, and seeing you guys stay throughout the entire game ….Could it be bigger and better? I think it always can be. You can never have enough fans. We are looking to take the time and build some more culture around here. One of the things that has stuck out to me immediately was the school pride that the kids at Indian Hills have for their school. Good, bad, or ugly. I mean, I have been at soccer games in the pouring rain, and I’m there with kids who are staying there watching the game in the rain, and they just won’t leave. Most high school kids would just see that it was raining and be like, ‘I’m not going to the game, I’d rather stay inside and be dry’ and stuff like that.”
Mr. Duncan was also asked about some concerns regarding football being supported more at the school (yielding a larger student section, gaining more coverage, etc.) than the other sports. He responded to this by stating,
“I’m sitting here and I have to pick my jaw up off the floor…this may have been something in the past, but I think as you can see via social media that I am not just at football games, but I am at gymnastic meets, girls volleyball games, girls soccer games, and showing as much love to every sport. And I said it when I interviewed for the position: I don’t see it as girls and boys. It is just sports. It’s just games. Every team should feel that they are on the same level as everyone else. And we will continue to support every sport, every club, and every activity just as much as we promote football. It is not just about that. For some schools, it’s like football runs the school and that it is the main athletic program that drives and generates everything, but I think here all the different sports offerings…you can’t just focus on football. Girls cross country are team champs for group C of Bergen county. So we have a lot of girls’ sports programs that are just dominating. The girls’ gymnastics team just finished third in the league championship. Unfortunately, girls’ soccer has been a bit of a work in progress this fall, but I am excited for what’s to come in the winter and spring as well. We will keep promoting every sport as if it is the only sport so everyone gets a fair shake. If that’s what they felt in the past, let’s hope that they don’t feel that way moving forward.”
Mr. Duncan also commented on some of the difficulties of his new job. He explained there are ongoing issues within sports of all three seasons, and that he is still getting used to the unfamiliar environment at Hills. He referred to this situation as “Fred Flintstone feet ” as he felt like his feet were running before he actually hit the ground. He also said that some challenges came from having to learn about sports that were not options at his old school, like swimming, ice hockey, lacrosse, fencing, and gymnastics. He explained that the challenges he is facing come from “realizing that some of the issues that we are facing now were not created but inherited by me, and I am trying to find solutions to problems without knowing the whole backstory.”
While Mr. Ducan plans on making changes for the future of Indian Hills, he also stated that he will try to make this the best year it can be for the people that are still here. He will not prioritize future generations by taking priority away from this year’s senior class and other classes that are still currently in the school. Overall, Indian Hills is buzzing with nothing but positivity regarding the new athletic director. The student body and staff are hopeful and eager to get to know him more and enjoy the winter and spring sports seasons yet to come.