When they returned to school this fall, Riverside students and staff noticed the fresh mulch under the trees and the new advertisements hanging around the football field. Many students now follow the Riverside Athletics Instagram page. Fall athletes are the new owners of athletic badges that get them into home sporting events for free.
However, they might not know the person behind all these changes: Robert Duncan, Riverside’s new Athletic Director.
Duncan replaced Margratha Chambers when Chambers retired last spring. Duncan has worked at Riverside for 11 years and has taught health and PE, coached football and track and field and served as Riverside’s Strength and Conditioning Coordinator.
Duncan is from Winston Salem, North Carolina. He played football, baseball, and ran track at Parkland High School. He graduated thirty-second in his class, and the school has retired his football jersey. It was his head football coach and mentor, D’Angelo Bell, who inspired him to go into the field of physical education.
“Athletics touch lots of people,” Duncan said.
He recently graduated from Western Kentucky University with a Master’s in Athletic Administration and Coaching.
As Athletic Director, his responsibilities include organizing all athletic competitions, concessions, buses and transportation, field management, and providing NCAA academic information.
“The job is humongous. He has the energy and the passion,” said athletic trainer Sarah Bell, who recounted that Duncan personally went to local businesses asking for sponsorships. Riverside’s athletic department is only allotted $14,000 by the county, and Duncan knew it would not satisfy the school’s needs.
According to Bell, Duncan’s goal as Athletic Director is to make younger students want to be Riverside athletes. Duncan said he will do this by looking at what already exists and making it new and functional.
“Nothing was wrong with it before hand, but when you’re new to something, you want to leave your mark on it,” he said.
Although Duncan made several quick and apparent changes, he has many more plans for the future. He mentioned creating an athletic honors society, giving awards to athletes who also excel in the classroom, and creating a hall of fame to recognize former Riverside athletes.
Duncan called his wife, Riverside dance teacher Kristin Taylor, monumental in the transition into his new role. He also said he feels supported by everyone at Riverside, including students, parents, and the coaching staff, who he said have been very open to criticism and improvement, which makes his job easier.
“He is digging [the athletic department] out of a giant hole,” said Bell.
Bell noted important changes such as Duncan’s commitment to cutting the grass on the fields, purchasing banners to hang on the light poles, and getting Riverside a Nike sponsorship. His communication with the coaching staff has been key, making sure that teams have what they need to succeed, including supplies and clinics.