POPLARVILLE, Miss.— After a decade leading Pearl River's women's soccer program and watching countless players advance to the four-year level, long-time coach Jack Byrd is now ready to make the move himself.
The Mississippi University for Women recently announced Byrd has been hired as its next head coach.
"Most two-year coaches, if they haven't coached at the four-year level always have the question as to whether they could. That's always been something in the back of my mind and this affords me the opportunity to try my hand at a four-year school," Byrd said. "I'll treat it with the competitiveness that helped me win at Pearl River Community College and hopefully we'll continue our winning ways."
A Picayune native, Byrd arrived at Pearl River as a kicker for the football team before moving on to play for Ouachita Baptist University, where he graduated in 2003. Byrd began coaching at the youth ranks in Arkansas before returning to Poplarville as an assistant coach in 2007. Byrd spent one year as both the men's and women's head coach in 2009 — leading the men to a 10-7 record; he has exclusively coached the Lady Wildcats that season.
Byrd leaves Pearl River with a career women's record of 158-34-9. His tenure includes MACJC titles in 2009, '12, '14 and '15, plus South State titles in '09, '11 and '15. Byrd was also named MACJC Coach of the Year in each of the state title campaigns and Region XXIII Coach of the Year in '12, '14 and '15.
"Pearl River allowed me to pursue my dream of coaching soccer. It has opened many doors, not just on the soccer field but furthering my education. It has allowed me to impact the lives of more than 250 girls over the past 12 years," Byrd said. "Over the last 10 years as a head coach we have enjoyed a lot of success on the field and in the classroom we have been among the top programs nationally in GPA.
"This is a place I will forever look upon with fond memories and I appreciate all the people who helped me get to where I am."
Even with all the hardware, Byrd will remember his players the most.
"Being in the coaching field as long as I have, it has really been a cool thing to see where these student athletes have gone," he said. "Many have become high school and even college coaches now; others have gone into other careers but they have all been successful. That's what's really gratifying."
Byrd also expressed appreciation for Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood and Athletics Director Jeff Long.
"Adam Breerwood took a chance on a guy 12 years ago and it was of the utmost importance to me to work as possible as I possibly could to validate his decision every day," Byrd said. "Jeff Long was instrumental in helping with the building projects at the soccer facility and also helping me to see all aspects of the coaching field. He encouraged the overall student athlete, not just the wins and losses."
During his time in Poplarville, Byrd was also instrumental in helping to upgrade PRCC's soccer facility. The recent completion of the team's new fieldhouse, which houses the men's and women's programs, gives Pearl River an unrivaled facility in the state.
"Coach Byrd has led our women's soccer program for 10 years and reached the pinnacle of the sport in the MACJC. He led our program to four state championships and his record speaks for itself," Long said. "He changed the lives of many student athletes here at PRCC and will always be part of the PRCC family.
"We wish Jack and his wife Meghan the best of luck as they continue their careers."
Pearl River's search for its next women's soccer coach will begin immediately.