High school field hockey

After 40 years, 433 wins, seven state and 13 regional titles, Holmes calls it a career

Beloved, respected BAHS coach decides to walk away from program he started
By Mark Haskell | Nov 28, 2012
Photo by: Mark Haskell After 40 years, Allen Holmes, the man who started the Belfast Area High School field hockey program, has decided to step away from the sidelines.

Belfast — For the first time in the history of the Belfast Area High School field hockey program, the team will be looking for a new coach.

That is because, after 40 years of guiding the program he started in 1972, Allen Holmes, 64, has decided to call it a career, as he submitted his resignation to BAHS athletic director Mark Babin Tuesday night, Nov. 27.

The move comes less than a month after BAHS wrestling coach Ted Heroux stepped down after leading the Lions 45 years.

Holmes traveled to Colorado for a few weeks after the recently-concluded field hockey season, which was the place he ultimately made his decision to resign.

"I just felt the time was right," Holmes said. "That I had given a lot and I just felt it was time to step down from that responsibility."

Holmes said both he and his wife, Ruth, of 43 years, had been thinking about the decision for the better part of the past decade.

"We've been discussing it and I don't remember if there was just one moment where I thought, 'That's it,' " he said. "I almost retired last year after winning the states, but it just wasn't setting right with me."

Those that know Holmes best understood it would have been difficult for him to step away from the program he started and nurtured for four decades.

"I like even numbers," Holmes said. "So 40 years seemed pretty even. And we had a good group coming back. I didn't know we were going to be as good as we were, so I was fortunate that happened."

The Lions returned to the state Class B championship game this season, dropping a 1-0 decision to Leavitt of Turner, a year after winning the state crown.

Holmes is one of only two high school field hockey coaches in Maine to amass more than 400 career victories, as he ended his varsity coaching career with a 433-162-43 record (.728 winning percentage).

During Holmes' coaching tenure, the Lions made numerous Eastern Class B playoff appearances since the Maine Principals' Association began sponsoring the tournament in 1976. That year, BAHS appeared in its first state Class B championship game, falling 2-1 to Livermore Falls.

During Holmes' four-decade tenure, Belfast won 13 regional championships and seven Class B state titles, along with five Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships. The team also was state runner-up six times.

Not bad for a man who knew little about field hockey when he started the Lions' program all those years ago.

The news of Holmes' resignation comes coupled with the fact that his daughter, Jan Holmes-Jackson, who has coached the Camden Hills field hockey team for 17 years, gave her verbal resignation to Windjammer athletic director Steve Alex two weeks ago.

"It makes me sad that he is [stepping down] where he started the program," said Holmes-Jackson of her dad's departure. "He has instilled so much confidence and he was always positive and he's influenced a lot of girls over the years. It's sad to see him go."

Holmes-Jackson, a Swanville resident and 1992 graduate of BAHS, said she plans to apply for the BAHS coaching position.

Holmes has gotten the better of his daughter in their 30 meetings over the past 17 years with a record of 24-5-1, including 3-0 in the playoffs.

Holmes said Babin "wasn't really surprised," but tried to talk Holmes out of his decision to resign.

"I told him, 'I'll tell you what, if no one applies for the position, then I'll take it back,' " said Holmes. "And [Babin] said, 'Well, I won't put any applications out then.' So I guess he wanted me to stay."

Holmes was part of the first graduating class of BAHS in 1966. His senior class attended Crosby School for the first half of the calendar year before making the move to the new high school. In high school, Holmes played baseball, basketball and football.

Holmes then attended Aroostook State College (now the University of Maine in Presque Isle) and graduated in 1970 with a degree in physical education and a minor in English. In college, he played baseball.

Months after graduation, Holmes accepted a position as the physical education teacher at his former high school, which became Crosby Junior High School.

He was a physical education teacher at the middle school level for 30 years before retiring as the teacher for Troy Howard Middle School in 2000.

"I like even numbers," Holmes reiterated.

In addition to being a teacher, Holmes also worked for the majority of his life at Holmes Greenhouse, the family business. He also is involved with the schools, often seen keeping the scorebook or clock during home basketball games.

Both Holmes and his brother, Richard, own the business after inheriting it from their uncle, who started the business in 1941.

While there were many fond memories for Holmes over the years on the hockey field, the program got off to a rocky start, going 0-8-1 in its first year.

"We didn't score a goal all year," said Holmes.

The following year, the Lions went 4-3-2, which started a streak of 39 consecutive winning seasons.

Amazingly, Holmes had no background in field hockey before starting the program.

"When Title IX came into play [in 1972], that opened up field hockey at Belfast," said Holmes-Jackson. "And [my dad] wanted to coach a varsity sport and that was the only one available at the time. He had no idea. He just started to study it."

Holmes has heartwarming memories from through the years, including the team's first state title in 1979, a 1-0 win over Gorham and back-to-back state championship appearances against Gorham in 1984 and 1985, defeating the Rams 2-0 in the second year.

The loss to the Rams in the 1984 state final made the Lions' win the following year that much sweeter.

"We'd lost to them in the state final the year before in the seventh overtime," Holmes said. "We came home after six [overtimes] because that particular year, even though there was enough daylight, they had determined we would play six sudden-victory overtimes, or you'd come back another day. So we went back the following Monday, I think it was Veteran's Day, and we'd played about three minutes and 40 seconds and they scored."

Then in 1989, he coached the Lions — and his daughter, Holmes-Jackson — to their third state title, this time over Cape Elizabeth.

"That was pretty special," he said.

Belfast went on to win four more state crowns, including three straight from 2004-06, in addition to its most recent one in 2011. All four were against York.

During his four-decade coaching tenure, Holmes guided the Lions to 13 regional crowns (1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1989, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011 and 2012) and seven state crowns (1979, 1985, 1989, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011).

The backbone of any successful high school athletic program starts at the youth level and Belfast's field hockey program is no exception. Holmes coaches the peewees in grades 3-5 and will continue in that capacity.

"I think I'd like to keep that going," he said. "It's an important part of any program, to make sure they're getting the correct skills and get that Belfast tradition instilled early so we don't miss any beats."

Despite that fact, Holmes said he plans to stay away from the varsity games for the first year.

"I might sneak through the woods [to the field] there off Route 1 if I have the urge," he said.

Heroux, who coached the Lion wrestling team to 602 wins, eight state championships, 11 regional titles and 13 league crowns, applauded Holmes' successful career.

"He's been very successful, [and] had a great, successful career," said Heroux. "The town couldn't have done much better then having two local boys being as successful as us. They got their money's worth."

Together, Holmes and Heroux combined for 1,034 wins, 330 losses, 46 ties, 15 state titles, 24 regional crowns, 18 league championships and 12 state runners-up finishes.

"Ted's had a great career," said Holmes of Heroux. "Another Belfast boy that came back and put in a lot of time and he coached some real good boys that excelled with his guidance. So I'm hoping on the other side I had some girls that excelled with my guidance."

Did he ever.

Holmes coached numerous All-State field hockey players and two winners of the Miss Maine Field Hockey award — Kelsey Jackson in 2005 and Callie Aldus in 2006. Both Jackson and Aldus are Heroux's granddaughters.

Holmes has bled blue and gold for nearly his entire life, yet it appears some of the best advice he ever received was a piece he did not take.

"When we left college [a teacher] told us we shouldn't go back to our hometown," said Holmes, who applied for teaching jobs at both Washburn and Washington Academy of East Machias before returning to Belfast. "They said you have friends and relatives and sometimes they can lead you astray and know too much about what's going on. You ought to go someplace where you can establish yourself."

"I'd like to see [that teacher] today and tell him, 'Well, that's not always true.' "

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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