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Sheffield, Copp get new coaching jobs at Lecanto

In 10 years at Lecanto High School, Bruce Sheffield has been involved in almost every sport offered at the school.

Almost.

Now Sheffield is about to add a new sport to his lengthy coaching resume. He has been hired to take over the boys soccer program at Lecanto that was vacated by Ed Fretz.

Sheffield is a part of two coaching changes this season at Lecanto. Girls weightlifting coach Fran Copp is the new wrestling coach. He replaces Cory Collins, who resigned at the end of the 1999 season to spend more time with his family.

Sheffield, a coach and teacher at the school since 1989, has been an assistant football coach every year with the exception of one season. He coached the junior varsity boys basketball team in 1989 and was the head baseball coach from 1992-96. During the 1990-92 seasons, he was the boys tennis coach. And during the 1997-98 seasons, he was an assistant girls soccer coach to former boys coach Kevin Towne.

It was Towne's influence that led Sheffield to his new position. Sheffield isn't a long-time student of soccer, nor is he a former player. But through his association with Towne, he has learned to enjoy the sport.

"I was not really a soccer fan, but coach Towne asked me a couple of years ago to help out," Sheffield said. "I didn't like it that much before then. But after getting in and seeing his passion for the game, and with him teaching what he taught me, I found a new respect for the game. I can't give him enough credit for the things he's taught me. Between Kevin and Willie Bulgin, another assistant, I've learned things I don't think I probably would have learned anywhere else."

Because the boys and girls soccer teams often played on the same days, Sheffield said he didn't get to see much of the Lecanto boys team last season. But he won't be a complete stranger.

"I only saw the boys a few times because we played the same time, but I know quite a few of the players," Sheffield said. "I don't know all of them; there are some younger kids that I know names, but have to put names and faces together. But I know the majority of kids that played varsity last year."

Copp, who is a competitive body builder, started the girls weightlifting team at Lecanto two seasons ago. He will take over a program that Collins built into one of the up-and-coming programs in the state.

Along with Springstead, Lecanto has dominated area wrestling the past four years. During his five-year tenure, Collins led Lecanto to four consecutive district titles. The Panthers' third-place finish in the 1999 North II Regional was their highest ever.

But Lecanto athletic director Dick Slack said he's confident Copp is the person to take the program to the next level.

"Fran wrestled in high school and college and he's been a wrestling official," Slack said. "We're real excited about him taking over. He does a great job with the kids."

Sheffield, who will continue as an assistant football coach, said he is excited about the opportunities his new role will bring.

"I would like to try to take them to the next level," Sheffield said. "With coach Towne, the boys had monumental success. They went to Elite Eight one year. That program knows success.

"I'm excited because I feel like it's an opportunity for me to go into a situation that's new to me, but I'm very anxious to learn and for the kids to teach as well. I see a program I think I can help. Even though I've really only been in soccer for the past two years, I've learned so much about the game, its philosophy and strategy from coach Towne that I feel I can pass it on to the boys team."

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