LEWISTON — Bill Bodwell paced the practice field behind Lewiston High School, his arms folded across his chest as he strode through the defenders while they attempted to stop the offense from putting the ball in the cage.
Never raising his voice loudly enough to be heard from across the field, Bodwell instructed players as he saw necessary, always making sure he was close enough so as not to yell too loudly.
On the sidelines several moments later, he stood still, again with his arms crossed in front of him. He peered through his reflective sunglasses, watching as assistant coaches Tim Roy and Ben Fournier ran practice.
Across the river in Auburn, Dave Haefele, clad in Bates College apparel from head to toe, paced the sideline at the St. Dom’s athletic complex as assistant coach Matt Day took the Saints through warmups.
Haefele, the assistant equipment manager for athletics at Bates, and Bodwell, a jack-of-all-trades who manages commercial real estate and works part-time in the automobile industry, both are patrolling the sidelines as coaches for their respective schools for the first time.
Neither begins his tenure without an extensive background in coaching. Haefele played in Wilton, Conn., where he was a high school All-American, and played in college at Cortland State, where he was honorable mention All-American.
“I went back after that and helped coach with my old coach at Wilton,” Haefele said.
He moved on to the University of New Haven and Nicholas College before moving to Maine.
Bodwell, meanwhile, coaches the girls’ hockey team at Brunswick High School, where he has also been an assistant lacrosse coach with the boys’ team. Before that, he was at Freeport and helped start the program at Thornton Academy.
“I’d thought about applying here before,” Bodwell said, “but they got someone else in here before I did.”
One year later, a chance to coach at one of the Dragons’ top rivals was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“Now that I’m here, I’ve never met a group of more respectful athletes,” Bodwell said. “They’ve been great.”
Neither coach is looking to reinvent the wheel, either. Haefele was a volunteer assistant last season with the Saints, and is familiar with their systems.
“Athletic ability is big,” Haefele said, “and you try to develop their stick skills and their team game. With the growth programs at the middle schools and younger, these kids are coming in here with skills as it is, so it’s more developing things they already know.”
Bodwell hopes to incorporate some of what he learned at Brunswick with some of what the Devils were already doing.
“I learned a ton from Don Glover (at Brunswick),” Bodwell said. “I think it’s kind of neat because I can take some of what Lewiston has done traditionally by having Ben and Tim here, and maybe bring a little bit of what I know and mesh all of it together. I don’t want to change what’s worked here, and generally, Lewiston’s had a good program.”
And both of them are excited already to see what they have to work with in terms of players, and are both positive about the future of their programs.
“We’re looking good so far,” Haefele said. “It should be a good year here, these kids are a good bunch, and as long as they work hard, we’ll do all right.”
“The thing I bring most to a program is fundamentals,” Bodwell said. “I want to make sure every player improves on those fundamentals by the end of the year, that’s the primary goal. I’d rather use one or two systems and make sure we run them right.
“But the kids here, this has been great,” he continued. “They’re respectful, and they all seem like they want to learn, so that’s great going forward.”
Boys’ lacrosse preview
Eastern Class A
A shift in which schools classify as East or West has dramatically changed the landscape in Eastern Class A. The MPA has moved Portland, a perennial contender in Western A, to the East, along with Deering and Cheverus, to balance out the classification. There are now 12 teams in Eastern A, and 11 in the West.
Mt. Blue made the leap into the Eastern A realm this season, jumping from Eastern B, where the Cougars went 12-0 in the regular season last year before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cougars are still pretty solid, and are excited about beefing up their schedule to better prepare for a possible run in the postseason.
Edward Little is entering its fourth season under Andy MacIsaac, so every player in the program has now grown up with the same system. The Eddies were fired up last season about beating rival Lewiston for the first time, and with a host of solid returners, could pose that same threat twice this season.
Lewiston had an uncharacteristic down year in terms of record last year, and the Devils are surely looking to rebound. A new coach could help steady the ship, and the reintroduction of some alumni as assistants could help inspire the current crop of players.
Oxford Hills round out the tri-county teams in Eastern A. The Vikings are looking to earn a win or two this season after being unable to find one last year.
Eastern Class B
The shift in Eastern A also changed the landscape in Eastern B a bit, too.
St. Dom’s remains one of the top teams in the region, thanks to a good crop of returning players. A coaching change shouldn’t make much of a difference for the Saints, who will be solid on the back end, and have a few snipers up front to score some goals.
With Mt. Blue gone, the only other area teams in Eastern B this season are Mountain Valley and Oak Hill. Between them, they managed six wins in 24 games last season.
The Raiders will need to find a goalie, and fast. If they can, the depth up front is there, and the defense is developing well. Coach Adam Dube is stressing positive attitude this season, regardless of wins and losses, and the development of personal skills as the season marches on.
The Falcons will also benefit from a newly-weighted schedule, and could make a push for the playoffs.