Conversation with Jim Perry


Saturday, October 30, 2021, TRIB-LIVE

With Fox Chapel in the WPIAL boys soccer playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season, it’s a good time to have a conversation with the man who was instrumental in putting the program on the map.

Jim Perry started as an assistant in 1964 under coach Ed Boyle and took over the program in 1972. He was the head coach for 19 seasons, retiring in 1990. His Foxes won nine section titles during his tenure and made the playoffs 15 of the 19 seasons.

He compiled a 255-86-25 record as head coach of Fox Chapel, winning a WPIAL crown in 1987 and the PIAA title in 1990.

Perry has been inducted into The Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (1992), Fox Chapel Area Schools Hall of Fame (1999), the PA Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2003), the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame (2007) and Slippery Rock University’s first Soccer Ring of Honor in 2011.

Perry recently took a few minutes to talkabout his career.

How was Fox Chapel able to achieve such success in soccer during the early days of the school district and how were you able to sustain it?

When the school district was formed, Ed Boyle was a physical ed teacher at Kerr Elementary School in O’Hara Twp. He had been an All-American at Slippery Rock and insisted the school have a boys soccer program. Their first season was in ‘61. His passion for the game and knowledge attracted many of the boys at FC. Soccer was played in the spring then, so some schools used it as spring football practice. FC had several football players on their soccer team. I moved to the junior high in 1968 to coach that team as Jack Jarvie, another All-American at Slippery Rock, got out of teaching. This enabled soccer development at the junior high to continue. Being the physical ed teacher at the junior high, I was able to recruit athletes to play soccer as their second sport. We always had a couple on our most successful teams. There have only been four head coaches since 1961. All of them had a soccer background going into the position. I think this stability has as much to do with the history of success at FC as anything.

What was it like in the early days when there were so few schools sponsoring soccer? Was the section winner considered the WPIAL champion?

My first year at FC, 1963-64, soccer was played in the spring. FC and Springdale were the only schools in the north who played soccer. They were also our biggest rival due to their success. We played home and away vs. Springdale, Chartiers Valley, South Fayette, Snowden (now South Park), Charleroi and Monongahela. Whoever had the best record was the WPIAL champion. If there was a tie, there was a playoff game. With football players on many of the rosters, the game often became quite physical.

What was the biggest factor in the explosion of high school soccer where now over 100 WPIAL schools have boys and girls programs?

Changing soccer to a fall sport in 1965 was significant. Shaler, North Allegheny and North Hills started programs and there became a north section. Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair also started programs to form a south section. Section winners played for the WPIAL championship. The explosion of youth soccer in the early 70s was instrumental to its growth in high schools. Youth programs were formed in the school districts and this started an early interest in the game.

You’ve had many thrills with your soccer involvement. Does winning a state title in 1990 at the same time your son, Mark, did the same at Hampton rank at or near the top?

Mark and I winning state championships on the same day at Shippensburg was definitely the highlight of my coaching career. He succeeded me the following year at Fox Chapel and went undefeated as a WPIAL champion, losing in the state quarterfinals on a penalty kick shootout. That was his first loss in 50 games as a high school coach. I am very proud of the success he had at Fox Chapel and continues to have at Seneca Valley. You know he has won more WPIAL and PIAA titles than I have.

Do you still follow soccer and are you surprised Fox Chapel is still experiencing success?

I do still follow soccer. Was still coaching club soccer until the pandemic. Recently I have gone to several college games where some of my club players are participating. Obviously, I watch a lot of soccer on TV. I have made several trips to England with former soccer coaches to attend games there. I am pretty much a soccer junkie. I am not surprised at FC’s continued success. There are so many kids playing soccer today, and with advanced clubs, they get so much experience in the game. Many of the kids playing today have parents who played the game. This results in an interest in soccer at an early age.

You’re the Vice President of the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. What are your duties and what are the parameters for induction?

My duties aren’t much different than other members of the executive board other than running the meeting if the president doesn’t attend. Personally, I try to promote soccer people that other board members might not be aware of. The parameters for induction are simply, have they made a contribution to athletics in Western Pa? We are the largest chapter in the state. There is a Hall of Fame room at the Station Square Sheraton that showcases all our inductees and more.