New England Roundup: Maine

Paul Vachon established himself as one of the top basketball coaches in Maine, winning seven girls Class A state championships in 23 years at Cony High School in Augusta. Prior to that he coached at Waterville and Messalonskee and won over 400 games in his career at Cony alone. He stepped down five years ago to take the athletic director’s position at Cony and recently answered a few questions about his job.

Q: You were a basketball coach for nearly 30 years. What misconceptions did you have about an athletic director’s job during that time?

MaineA: "I didn't realize all the time and responsibility that came with this position. Being in charge of 23 varsity sports, 25 sub-varsity, 55 coaches, supervising events, and attending meetings, certainly puts a lot on your plate. I had tunnel vision when I was coaching. Basketball was all I saw. Wow, was I ever wrong."

Q: How many hours do you work during an average week during the school year? And what are those hours devoted to?

A: "I average between 50-70 hours a week. Bus scheduling, referee assignments, daily updates on events, committee meetings, cancellations, MPA information updates and paperwork, parent concerns, player concerns, student eligibility, drug and alcohol concerns, field and game preparations, special events, booster meetings, evaluations, and making sure there is enough pizza for tonight's game — just to name a few."

Q: What is the most important aspect of your job?

A: "The most important aspect of my job is to be a good listener. I may not agree with everything, but I must understand that everyone has their own opinion. I must listen, research, and evaluate all dilemmas. I then must come up with a solution that hopefully everyone will understand and agree upon."

Q: Augusta has a number of centrally located and well developed facilities which make it an attractive site for regional and state championship events. How much of an extra burden is this on your job?

A: "I don't know if I would call it a burden. This is what I envisioned the AD position would be like. I love watching athletics and I would do anything to promote events for our school and community. Yes, we are centrally located, but our administration, community and city have built some nice facilities that many people want to use. I feel it is one of my responsibilities that I help promote these outstanding facilities."

Q: How have athletes changed since you began coaching?

A: "School teams were always our No. 1 priority. I'm not sure that this is truly the case anymore. I've seen athletes miss practices and even games to attend other sporting events. Year round practices and games for elite groups are now being offered for all sports. Many athletes and parents have already chosen their career sport by middle school. Instead of developing athletes, it seems that we are focusing on a specific area and hoping for scholarships. The best teams I ever coached was when I had three sport athletes on our teams."

Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?

A: "The most difficult part of my job is my inability to have the time to spend with the student athlete. They need to know that we care about them and more than just being an athlete. It is a difficult world out there. Expectations for our student/ athletes is as pressurized as ever. We must remember that this is high school. Our job is to make sure that they feel good about who they are and that athletics is only one part of their high school education. We are teachers first and coaches second. Technology has made it very difficult to focus on certain areas."

Q: What is the most rewarding part of you job?

A: "The most rewarding part of my job is our support system. Our administration and school board have a great understanding that athletics play a huge role in a student's high school education. You must understand that Cony offers as many sports as any school in this state."

Q: Do you miss coaching and do you think you’ll ever return?

A: "I do miss coaching. I still run camps and attend clinics. I am positive that I will be coaching again."

Q: Is the turnover of coaches greater today than is was 15 or 20 years ago? If so, why?

A: "The turnover is much greater. I think if you check the coaches who have longevity, I think that you will find out that they are involved in the school system as an employee. Mike McGee, Dianne Fornier, Al Veneziano, Paula Doughty, Moe McNally, Scott Graffam, Mt. Blue football coach etc."

Q: Being a teacher in the system gives you a greater understanding of the student athlete and vice versa. How do you walk the fine line between parental involvement and parental interference in high school athletics?

A: "We need parent volunteers. Our All Sports Boosters raise a huge part of our athletic budget and it is all because of their great dedication and love that our parents have for their children. Cony High School is very fortunate to have such caring parents. With that said, I must admit that we do have dilemmas with parents voicing their personal opinions. I must also admit that I have been on both sides of the fence. I must again go back to my original statement; I must become a great listener. I hope what I have learned as a parent, teacher, coach, and administrator has provided me with the wisdom that I can share that provides comfort for the parent's concern."

Q: Cony continues to offer a number of sports that many schools do not. With a declining enrollment and budget considerations, how long can this be sustained?

A: "The athletic budget is less than two percent of the entire school budget. I am in hopes that the school board and community believe that athletics plays at least two percent of a role in a high school student's education."

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in high school athletics in Maine?

A: "I would like to see students receive credits for playing sports. A lot of lessons are learned in participating in athletics. We give chorus credit and band credit. Why not athletics?"

Q: Is today’s high school athlete as dedicated to their sport as he or she was 20 or 30 years ago?

A: "I believe that athletes are as dedicated today as they were 20-30 years ago. We just don't have as many. Kids have many more distractions today than they had 20 years ago."

Boys Basketball Top 10

There’s only one unbeaten team in Class A following Bonny Eagle’s win over Cheverus last week in Western Maine and Lewiston’s upset of Hampden in the East. Parity in both divisions will be borne out in the next couple of weeks with a number of key showdowns.

1. Deering (8-0), The Stags are rolling but will find out where they stand when they play at Cheverus Friday night.

2. Cheverus (7-1), A seven point loss to Bonny Eagle last week snapped a long regular-season unbeaten streak. Next up a chance at redemption against Deering.

3. Lewiston (7-1) Talented Blue Devils handed Hampden its first loss last week. Only blemish a loss to rival Edward Little.

4. Hampden (7-1), Three point loss at Lewiston should make Broncos that much tougher the rest of the way.

5. Bonny Eagle (6-2) Riding an upset against Cheverus, the Scots established themselves as a contender in the West.

6. Falmouth (8-0), Yachtsmen rolling so far. Showdown looms against Greely next week.

7. Bangor (7-2), Suspended players return as defending state champs look forward to rematch against Hampden.

8. Marshwood (6-2), Hawks playing well. Only losses to Deering and Cheverus.

9. Medomak Valley (7-1), Have rolled aside from one-point loss against Camden Hills.

10. Dirigo (8-0), Beat previously unbeaten Spruce Mountain by four last week in only test of the season.

Girls' Basketball Top 10

1. McAuley (8-0), Defending state champions survive five-point scare against Deering. Showdown vs. Scarborough next week.

2. Scarborough (8-0), Red Storm will find out where they stand when the take on McAuley next week.

3. Nokomis (8-0), Warriors have sights set on Class B title. First, they have a date this week against unbeaten Camden Hills.

4. Cony (8-0), Rams are the last unbeaten team in Class A East. They’ll be tested Friday at once-beaten Skowhegan.

5. Presque Isle (8-0), Veteran group tearing up northern Maine Class B while averaging more than 70 points a game.

6. Camden Hills (8-0), Windjammers face a pair of unbeatens in Nokomis and Gardiner in the next week.

7. York (7-1), Perennially strong Wildcats have lost only to Greely.

8. Cheverus (7-1), Scarborough and Deering in succession this week will tell Stags where they stand.

9. Mt. Ararat (6-2), Eagles have size and skill but lack depth. Posted big wins against Edward Little and Skowhegan.

10. Leavitt (7-1), Defending Class B state champs lost to Camden Hills but still a dangerous team.

Boys' Hockey Top 10

1. Scarborough (7-0-1), Red Storm showed they’re for real with a 4-1 win against Falmouth.

2. Thornton (5-1-0), After a loss to Falmouth, defending state champs host Scarborough this week.

3. Bangor (5-1-0), Knocked off rival Brewer but good start slightly marred by loss to Lewiston.

4. Brewer (7-1-0), Big wins against Messalonskee and Falmouth make Witches the team to beat in Class B.

5. Greely (5-0-1), The Rangers headed for a tough game this weekend against Cape Elizabeth.

6. Biddeford (3-3-0), Two of Tigers’ losses to Thornton. Face a test Saturday against Bangor.

7. Falmouth (4-2-0), Only team to defeat Thornton. Eye-opener in this week’s loss to Scarborough.

8. Messalonskee (5-1-0), Super goal scorer in Sam Dexter. Only loss to Brewer.

9. Cape Elizabeth (4-1-2), Big tie against Scarborough has Capers believing in themselves. Play Marshwood/Traip this week.

10. Marshwood/Traip (8-0-0), Soft schedule so far has fans wondering. But it gets tougher beginning with Cape Elizabeth this week.

McClintock commits to Purdue

Madison Memorial High School senior Matt McClintock has accepted a partial scholarship to attend Purdue University next fall. McClintock established himself as the state’s top runner this year, winning the Festival of Champions, which included all classes, as well as her third Class C state title in a row.

He went on to finish third at the New England championships and sixth at the Northeast Foot Locker Regionals. He placed 15th at the Foot Locker Nationals, earning him All-America honors and making him the first Maine schoolboy to do so since 2003.

“I got out there and really like the coach,” McClintock told the Morning Sentinel. “I think with his coaching I’ll have a better shot at the Olympics in 2016.”