When Kris Wright went looking for a job that might get him a little closer to home, Poland Regional High School just happened to fall within his parameters.

“My job search included the old stomping grounds of the Oxford Hills area, and I know Poland is a relatively new school,” said Wright, a 1990 graduate of Oxford Hills. “It was in that area, so I looked into it.”

Wright is one of three new coaches hired at Poland. Wright takes over the boys’ soccer program. Rus Willette is the new girls’ basketball coach, and Aaron Rand is the new hockey coach.

“The Poland job interested me in an overall sense because of the philosophy of the school, the size of the school, the location of the school, and the faculty are an amazing group of people,” said Wright, who has taken an English teaching position. “It’s a relatively new school. So, much like the soccer program, I can get in while it’s still relatively close to ground level and help to build something there.”

All three programs have struggled to blossom beyond the developing stages. Willette is the third coach for the seniors, while Wright is the fifth coach in the boys’ soccer program’s brief history.

Wright has worked with the soccer programs at White Mountain School in Bethlehem, N.H. He has also helped with the Oxford County Soccer Club with Oxford Hills coach Kyle Morey. He hopes to begin working with his new team as early as next week.

“Understanding that it might take a little while, but really working hard with them to turn the program into something we can all be proud of,” said Wright.

Willette faces a similar challenge with the girls’ basketball team. Though the Knights earned their first playoff berth last winter, it has been hard to maintain consistency.

“They’re understandably pensive,” Willette said. “I don’t think they’re discouraged to have a new coach as much as they are wondering how much do they invest when they haven’t seen any longevity? That’s always the question and, hopefully, we can put it to bed. To do that, the true way is to spend a few years and invest in the program.”

Willette graduated from Gray and attended Gordon College. He served as an assistant coach at Gordon before he returned to Maine. He has coached under both Mark Karter at Westbrook and, for the last three years, Rick Simonds at Bonny Eagle.

“I like the idea of going into a relatively new school that is on the verge of being successful and being involved in taking that next step,” said Willette.

The Knights graduated one senior from a team that made strides last year. Willette hopes to continue to nurture that progress and build the club’s confidence.

Rand, Poland’s girls’ soccer coach, has spent the last two winters as an assistant hockey coach at Edward Little.

“I’ve always been coaching,” Rand said. “I helped my father coach bantams in Auburn for 10 years. My son started playing – he’s 11 – and he’s going to Poland in four years. So it was a good opportunity.”

The hockey team struggled the first few seasons. Consisting of players from both Poland and Gray-New Gloucester, the team went 9-10 last year after going 11-8 the year before and making the playoffs.

“Hopefully, we can win enough not to just make the playoffs, but to have a decent seed,” said Rand. “Can we beat EL, Lewiston or St. Dom’s all year long? No, but can we beat them in one game? Definitely. If we get a chance, we can see what happens.”

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