Sidelines: Good sports do finish first

Wayne Rivet

Wayne Rivet

By Wayne E. Rivet

Sports Editor

Like any high school coach, Michael Chaine wants to win each time his boys’ soccer team steps onto a field.
Unfortunately, Lake Region has had few chances to celebrate over the past few seasons. Coach Chaine has poured his heart and soul into the program, trying to reverse a losing trend. He has even filled the roles of both varsity and JV coach since the school has been unable to find someone willing to serve as an assistant. Ask most successful varsity coaches, and they will quickly point out that one of the main reasons their programs contend each year for the playoffs is because they roll out qualified assistants to help bring out the best in their athletes.
Despite his lack of help, Coach Chaine is changing the culture surrounding the soccer program. Although the Lakers won just two games this fall, the team was more competitive. They showed improvement in their skills and understanding of the game. They rallied around each other, and refused to bow when overrun by more talented foes.
Best of all, they played the game the way it is meant to be played — aggressively, full effort yet with class.
They were rarely winners in the final count, but at the end of the season, the Lakers learned that others held them in high regard. For the first time, the Lakers brought home the Maine Principal Association’s Good Sportsmanship banner for Class B West.
It was the second time in two weeks that local high schools garnered a prize as valuable as capturing a state title. Earlier, the Fryeburg Academy field hockey brought home the program’s first banner.
“I was so proud when I received word that the team had been awarded the sportsmanship banner. At the end of the season, all focus is on playoffs, Heal points, travel schedules etc. It was such a wonderful reminder of what we all strive to achieve,” FA varsity field hockey coach Dede Frost said. “I honestly believe that our team does exhibit respect and good sportsmanship. It is not always easy. Emotions run high in competitive situations for all athletes and frustration levels increase for so many reasons.  Keeping those emotions in check is really that hard part. I know my girls try hard to smile and be positive, to be respectful even when they disagree or have questions. I’ve told them that it is often easy to be a good sport when you win, but the test of true sportsmanship comes when things don’t go your way. I hope that this award proves that their opponents noticed this, too!”
The Raiders reached the playoffs, won a game, but then lost to eventual state champ, York. What stood out was the team’s ability to win with grace and lose with dignity.
“Sportsmanship is a critical part of my coaching philosophy. I know the girls think I sound like a broken record sometimes. I tell them at the beginning of preseason and remind them before every game that no matter the position they find themselves in, they need to handle it respectfully,” Coach Frost said. “One individual’s unsportsmanlike display is a reflection on the entire team and the school which we represent.”
Several time this season, Coach Frost heard her players say “sorry” and offer a hand to an opponent when they were down — whether it was for incidental contact or just someone taking a fall.
“I watch them carefully when they go through the line at the end of every game. They know I expect them to hold their heads up, smile, speak to the other team and offer a friendly handshake,” she said. “They go to their captains when they have questions so that it can be addressed with the official in the appropriate manner. They appreciate talent, but also recognize and appreciate kindness from others. It’s amazing how many photos I’ve taken this year of my players with an opponent after the game.”
Coach Frost broke the news that the Raiders had earned the Good Sportsmanship banner in a cryptic way on their trip to York.
“I wrote a poem for them before the game so I incorporated it into the last line of the poem. It took them a minute, then they all started screaming and cheering,” she said. “It was so wonderful to focus on attitude, staying positive, sportsmanship instead of wins and losses before the game. They remained positive and determined to do their best. It reiterated the importance of playing for the love of the game — that it is a game — and how we conduct ourselves is of the utmost importance. They were so excited and appreciative to earn the award. I am truly proud of them.”
Too many times, fans and players measure a season by the number of wins or whether they fulfill expectations that might include winning the West title or even a gold ball. What is often lost is whether athletes improved — both from a skill level to development as young men and women — and if they actually had fun? Years from now, won-loss records will be forgotten, but what kind of person emerged from his or her involvement in high school sports will be more important, Coach Chaine said.
“As a coach, winning games is always a goal, but winning this award and receiving those comments (about what good sports the Lakers were this season) is what coaching is all about for me. Wins will come and go, but what we, as coaches, do to help develop our players into good moral people will hopefully stay with them for a lifetime,” Coach Chaine said. “I can’t start to tell you how proud I was to hear that the boys won this award. As I posted on our team Facebook page, it shows volumes of this team’s character in the face of adversity. After a very tough season last year, I knew I had my work cut out for me this year to keep my upperclassmen engaged, motivated and positive no matter the outcome of each game. With the addition of some new blood (several freshman, a transferring senior and two senior exchange students) and leadership from their captains, this team melded into a fantastic group of young men.”
Right from the start during preseason games, Coach Chaine emphasized to his players that success is not measured by the final outcome of a game, but instead by whether each Laker played to his best ability, gave all that he had and remained positive no matter final outcome.
“These boys excelled at this and I know it was noticed by all the other coaches and referees in the league This team also received several compliments from restaurant managers where we stopped to eat after games,” the coach said. “I instilled on them that how they represent our team, our school and themselves does not start and stop on the soccer field, yet it stays with them throughout the season anywhere they go. These boys were polite, courteous and positive to the opposing players, coaches and referees. I received countless praise from spectators and parents this year during some of our closest games that this team has made watching boys high school soccer fun and exciting once again.”
Players remain “in awe” of their unexpected accomplishment.
“I believe when the banner is raised in the gym in front of their friends, peers, family and friends for all to see then it will be the time they realize what an accomplishment and honor this truly is,” Coach Chaine said.

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