MONMOUTH – More headaches. More stress. More rewards.

Those are the things Gary Trafton was reminded of upon returning as a head soccer coach this fall. After spending last year as an assistant with the Oak Hill girls, Trafton is back at Monmouth Academy, where he coached the boys’ program for 12 years.

Now he’s at the helm of the girls’ program.

“You forget how stressful it can be and how intense it can be,” said Trafton. “Last year was really relaxing. I’d go to practice and the coach would say, ‘We’re going to do this and this.’ That was it. I’d come home, and I wouldn’t have to write up all my plans or think about what you needed to do.”

Trafton was quickly reminded how demanding coaching an athletic program can be, but he’s also very aware of the benefits. That’s one of the reasons he returned.

“It’s like a teacher in a classroom,” said Trafton. “You see the kids grow. It’s something you hope to create. I told the girls that we’re trying to get them in a situation where they’ll be successful in everything they do.”

Trafton led the Monmouth boys to four regional titles and back-to-back Class D state championships in 1999 and 2000. Even with Monmouth’s move to Class C, Trafton’s team was a perennial power in the MVC.

Maintaining a successful program became more challenging. With the start of football at Monmouth, there weren’t enough top athletes to go around at the small school. When his annual soccer camp began drawing more females, he could forecast a demise.

“I’d been there too long to watch the program dwindle,” said Trafton. “It was very hard. I really did not want to give it up. I worked too hard to build it where I wanted to have it dissolve on me.”

So Trafton spent last year working as an assistant with Cheryl Lambert at Oak Hill. Trafton had coached girls’ travel teams in the past and enjoyed the second-fiddle role.

Still, Trafton couldn’t help but yearn to coach his own team again. When the Monmouth job opened, it was a natural fit. He wanted to be sure his coaching schedule wouldn’t conflict with being able to watch his daughter, Ali, play Division II soccer at Southern New Hampshire. When he decided he could juggle both, he accepted.

Going from coaching boys to coaching girls hasn’t been much of an adjustment. Having two daughters, Ali and Dana, gives him a good perspective. Dana, a recent graduate at Bates College, is helping as an assistant coach.

“With Ali playing in college, I hear things that are happening on her team, and it makes me aware of things that can happen on my team,” he said. “She’ll say, ‘Maybe if you try this approach, you’ll get better results.’ I listen to her.”

The Mustangs graduated three seniors from last year’s club that went 8-5-1 and lost in the Western C quarterfinals. The team is a little thin with 18 players are on the squad. Katie Woodman and Jenn Lola were both all-state players and join seven other returning players, but Monmouth also has five freshmen, who will have to play key roles at times. He’s already had to juggle some positions, which has the whole team adjusting.

“We have a good little core group, but we’re missing a few numbers that could make us real, real competitive,” said Trafton.

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