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High school sports

Gould teaches Panther athletes to have 'strong legs, strong hearts, strong minds'

In MVHS basketball, cross-country, track-and-field coaching business nearly 35 years, Gould surpasess 1,500 wins
By Ken Waltz | Oct 02, 2019
Photo by: Ken Waltz George Gould near the timer at a Medomak Valley cross-country meet this fall.

Waldoboro — Not once in the past three-and-a-half decades has George Gould, during a cross-country race, officially toed the starting line with the other high school runners and led them across the course to victory.

To be sure, Gould, a longtime runner, hit the road, course and trails countless times in practices with his young runners, but never took a step in competition for any of the meets.

Not once in that time has Gould gone to the scorer's table during a basketball game to be buzzed into the contest to make a pass, dribble up the court or defend an opponent, although certainly he laced up his sneakers a time or two to scrimmage with his players.

Not once in that time did Gould compete in the hurdles, high jump or shot put in a high school track-and-field meet, although plenty of times he has demonstrated or helped young student-athletes reach their potential in those disciplines, among others.

But what Gould has not done with his legs and feet, physical strength or keen basketball court savvy in the past 35-plus years, he has more than made up for with his expertise, experience, understanding, passion, kindness, support and motivation for generations of Medomak Valley basketball, cross-country and track-and-field athletes.

That is why hundreds of Panther athletes have trained countless hours and endured mile after mile of pain and mental anguish each fall in cross country, or learned to jump, hurdle, throw and sprint in the spring and, in the past, made thousands of shots and passes on trips up and down the basketball court, not only for themselves, but for the kind, soft-spoken, humble man they love and respect — and the person they call coach.

All of that for a man who taught each of those young athletes to always have "strong legs, strong hearts, strong minds," and a "cannot lose" attitude, a Panther cross-country team creed that has helped those runners — as well track-and-field and basketball athletes before them — give Gould an astonishing 1,500-plus career wins as a Panther varsity head coach.

At this point, Gould finished with 106 wins as girls basketball coach, has 208 victories in track and field and nearly 1,200 — and counting — in cross country.

"In my time here, I have seen coach Gould stress team chemistry and the importance of building a family atmosphere, and learning life lessons through sports," said Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash. "He gives his all to each of his athletes. No one is more important than the other. He is also a lifelong learner. One might think after 34 years of coaching cross country, the season and practice planning would look very similar from year to year. Not to coach Gould. Each season and each group is a new challenge, with new goals. Just the other day, he and I talked about a new drill that he developed through research. I was excited just listening to him. We are all very proud of him. One thousand 500 career wins is a very rare accomplishment. It's not something you hear about and speaks to how special it is, and how much he has meant to Medomak Valley."

Distinguished tenure

Gould, 68, is in his 34th year coaching the Medomak Valley girls and 14th leading the Panther boys cross-country teams. While he also has had long tenures as a track-and-field (23 seasons) and basketball coach (11), it is keeping his young student-athletes on the run that keeps him involved in the fall.

"For me it is all about my athletes and not me," said Gould, who led the Panther girls to the 1989 state Class B cross-country title. "After attaining 1,000 wins I didn’t really think I would be still coaching this long, but here I am."

Gould, a member of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame, also coached the girls varsity hoop team 11 years, leading the Panthers to the regional tournament most years. He said he remembers the players on his first Panther team that gave me win number one.

"Running and basketball have always been a big part of my life," he said. "I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love both of these sports. If you would have talked to me many years ago I am sure that basketball would have held the top spot. Now, it is cross country."

Gould, who now has a running trail at the former A.D. Gray School (old Waldoboro High School) in downtown named in his honor, said, "coaching cross country is an amazing journey on the high school level. I may have one runner or many runners, but, the goal is always the same ... see the athletes improve as a person and as a runner."

So what is it about cross country that attracts Gould like a bee to honey or steel to a magnet?

"In this sport there is only time, distance and pace," he said. "It is my job to put together a plan to have every runner improve, meet to meet, season to season, over a four-year career. It is a high standard and the most important thing is to learn to give your best effort in practice and on race day."

MVHS is home

Gould said for "most of my adult life Medomak Valley has been my home and the cross-country trail has been my backyard. My wife, Denise, has always been by my side, through the highs and lows. She has known that coaching was my passion and has always given me the encouragement to continue doing what I love."

Gould said athletic director Matt Lash has given the cross-country program one of the best courses in the state. "We walk out of school to an all-weather track beside the cross-country course. It couldn’t be a more perfect coaching situation."

Gould is a graduate of Waldoboro High School where he lettered in basketball, cross country and track and field. He attended Central Maine Community College where he lettered in basketball and baseball. He also studied criminal justice at the University of Maine Augusta.

Gould began his 39-year coaching career in Regional School Unit 40 as the seventh-grade boys basketball coach 1981-1983. He then became the Medomak Valley girls varsity basketball coach in 1983 and remained in that position 11 seasons. In 1986 he was named the girls track coach and has completed 23 seasons. In 1986 he also was named the girls cross-country coach. In 2006 he also was named the boys cross-country coach and continues in that position, his 14th season.

Some of Gould's impressive achievements: 37 years of continuously coaching at Medomak Valley High School, 82 varsity teams, more than 1,500 wins, the 1989 undefeated state Class B girls cross-country champions, two regional championships, nine league  championships (4 different sports, boys and girls), New England cross-country meet qualifiers, a handful of Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, regional and state individual champions, 10 KVAC coach of the year awards (4 different sports, girls cross country, boys cross country, girls basketball, girls track and field), member of the Maine Basketball Coaches Association 100-win club, former Maine Principals' Association cross-country committee member, former KVAC track committee member, current KVAC cross-country committee member and 2010-2012 Maine Games state commissioner.

Standout athlete

Previous to his coaching career at Medomak Valley, Gould worked in the recreation department of the Maine State Prison. He established “travel” basketball and fast-pitch softball teams for “trusted” inmates 1971-74. Those teams traveled throughout Maine and often played against some of the best basketball and softball teams of that day. Gould played point guard on the basketball team and third base on the softball team. In 1972 and 1973 the fast-pitch softball teams were state champions.

Gould played in area adult basketball, baseball and softball leagues that were prominent in 1970s and 1980s. He said he played with many amazing athletes during that time and those teams won several championships. On the basketball court, he was an accurate shooter and a dead-eye from the foul line.

"t was an exciting time to be an athlete playing sports in the Midcoast," he said.

Gould always has said the standout athletes he played with and incredible athletes he was "blessed" to coach have been the keys to the success he has known.

Even with his other coaching achievements, it has been cross county that has been Gould’s passion for 34 years and he has risen to the top level of high school coaches in Maine. The Panther cross-country family has established a program that is viewed with respect in the KVAC and statewide, he said.

As time has passed Gould has seen his role in Midcoast sports expand. He has become a mentor to other Midcoast coaches and athletes. Gould has established a summer running program for Midcoast athletes and runners of all abilities and ages. It does matter where one lives, or in which school district they compete, everyone is welcomed to be part of that program.

Gould has been involved closely with the construction of the “Nature Trail” cross-country course at Medomak Valley. Along with Neil Lash and Matt Lash, they have constructed one of the finest running venues in Maine. The course winds in an out of woods behind MVHS. The trail, named after Neil Lash, is a community resource.

In a real way Gould's athletes have kept him training and competing. Gould turned 55 years old in 2004. At that time he realized that many years had past since his days of competing as an athlete. He also knew that he had lost touch with how his athletes felt as they trained and then used that training in meets and events.

So, he had a meeting with several of that year's cross-country team members to express this concern to them. They came back to their coach a short time later with a plan that literally changed his life. They suggested he train for, and then enter, several events in that year's Maine Senior Games. Since that season, Gould trained and competed in many Maine Senior Game events where he has been awarded 27 medals (mostly gold).

And just how long will Gould continue to coach?

"Time catches up with all of us, we can’t outrun it," he said. "If God grants me good health, I plan to coach as long as I feel I can make a positive difference in the lives of the student-athletes."

Gould and his wife of 50 years, Denise, live in Waldoboro, and have two adult children, Brett Gould of Biddeford, and Amy Allen of West Gardiner. They also have five grandchildren and two great grandchildren

MVHS cross-country creed

A collaboration of words and inspirational phrases created by Gould and his runners:

Strong legs, strong hearts, strong minds, cannot lose.

Strong legs — Panther runners train hard every day to develop the type of “legs” that can carry them to the finish of any race. Without the foundation of a strong training program the remainder of our program would fall apart. With our training program we know that we can compete against all our opponents and, more importantly, we know that we can compete against the toughest opponent of all — ourselves. The only measuring stick we have is “pace.” Unlike other sports, we are judged on only two things — time and distance.

Strong hearts — Panther runners have strong hearts to know how to do the “right” thing. Of course, strong hearts can refer to our training the biggest muscle of all, our hearts. But, to me, when we say “strong hearts” it is more than that. It means that we are traveling the same path that the other great Panther cross-country teams have run before us. We have an obligation to do the best we can every time we practice and every time we race. We conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects pride on our program. In school, at practice, at meets we do the “right” thing. We have the heart of a champion. In public, we accept success with dignity and defeat with as little emotion as possible. We have the task to be role models for those who will travel the path after we leave. Medomak Valley cross-country teams are expected to be the best.

Strong minds — Panther runners want to excel in the classroom and in life. Panther runners will do the best they can in any situation, that is all anyone can ask of us but, more importantly, it is all we can ask of ourselves. Runners who have completed the workouts will succeed in dropping their pace time, become stronger as each day goes by, and know that they can succeed at any meet by running their personal pace time.

Cannot lose — Panther runners know that this means much more than winning any particular meet or head-to-head matchup. Panther runners “cannot lose” because they are running against themselves and no one else. I am sure that anyone listening to us before we run would misjudge our statement as arrogance. They would be sure that we are talking about defeating our opponents on that particular day. They would be wrong; we are saying that we cannot lose the race against ourselves. Our goal is always to fight for a better pace, even if that is one-10th of a second. Panther runners learn life lessons away from the classroom on the trails at Medomak. Those lessons learned will remain with them their entire lives.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Charlotte Doughty | Oct 02, 2019 12:39

Coach Gould continues to inspire every runner, whether first or last place, to do their best. Thereby improving their teams’ standing. Students remember these lessons long after graduation. Thank you Coach Gould

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