Following a legendary head football coach, as Gary Parlin did when he took over for Ray Caldwell at Mt. Blue 15 years ago, is an unenviable task.

“You want to establish your own identity,” said Parlin, who did that by installing the pass-happy Cougar Gun offense a couple of years into his tenure.

But there is no denying the influence Caldwell and other coaches had on Parlin. All coaches around high school football, no matter how much they try to separate themselves from the rest with innovative schemes or philosophies, have been shaped by other coaches, whether they played for them, coached with them, or just watched them from afar.

And it’s not just football coaches that influence them.

Parlin learned the importance of fundamentals from his father, Bob, a legendary Little League baseball coach in the Farmington area. Former Mt. Blue and Wilton Academy baseball coach Red Dean taught him focus and motivation.

“Red reminded me a lot of what I would imagine that a Bill Parcells is, you know, the second that you thought you were really going to get it from him, he’d be nice to you,” he said. “He really knew how to motivate people.”

From Caldwell, for whom Parlin served as the defensive coordinator for eight years, he learned how to deal with the many personalities that make up a football team.

“Ray knew how to handle kids,” he said. “He knew exactly what buttons to push with which kids.”

Coaches often learn their people skills from those they played for and/or coached with. Winthrop coach Joel Stoneton said two coaches he played for and later worked with, Chris Kempton and Art Van Wart, helped shape his philosophy on handling his players.

“They were both old school and held their kids accountable,” Stoneton said.

Jay coach Mark Bonnevie played for Mike Henry and Bill Biliouris when they were assistants on John Taglienti’s staff, then joined the staff when Henry took over as head coach.

“I do a lot of the same things that I learned from those two guys, and I definitely took a lot away from them,” Bonnevie said. “Defensively, with Mike, he had such a great feel for what other teams were trying to do, and he had a plan and prepared for that.”

Coaches also look elsewhere to develop their philosophies and schemes. Parlin is a follower of run-and-shoot guru Mouse Davis and his disciples, such as University of Hawaii coach June Jones.

Davis’ offensive scheme appealed to Parlin and many other coaches at rural schools because it revolved around players that could be found in any phys ed class.

“(Davis said) at any school, any size, you can always find someone who can throw the ball and someone that can run and catch it. You’re not always going to have big power linemen,” Parlin said.

The run-and-shoot has evolved into the spread offense, an increasingly popular offense here in Maine. And the guiding light for a lot of today’s younger coaches who like to run the spread is University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer.

“I like how he’s innovative,” Bonnevie said. “He always seems to be one up as far as offensive plays.”

Once their season ends in November, high school coaches look to the college and pro ranks for ideas to take into next year. Bowl season is a source for some of the more inspired plays.

“The coaches have so much time to prepare for those games. I love the bowls,” Parlin said. “We’ll tape some of them. Like Boise State last year, some of the stuff that they came up with (for their Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma) … that’s when we pick up a lot of stuff.”

In this age of information technology, coaches don’t have to wait for bowl season, or offseason coaching clinics to get new ideas. The Internet is a vast resource more and more coaches are using. There are Web sites detailing how to run anything from the spread to the double-wing all over the Web, and countless college and high school coaches sell books and videos on their own sites.

And despite the competitiveness within the Maine high school coaching fraternity, local coaches still like an old fashioned bull session occasionally to bounce idea off one another.

“The Lobster Bowl is like a coaching clinic, just to hang out with all these different coaches that you don’t normally have a chance to really sit down and talk football with,” Bonnevie said. “You always get a little something here, a little something there.”

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