The Fletcher family, from left, Kyle, Audrey, Haley, Hayden, Bryce, Julie and Joe, have found a lot of success on the soccer fields at Monmouth Academy. Submitted photo

Joe Fletcher discovered the joy of playing soccer late in his childhood, then his playing days were short-lived.

The short time was enough, though, to fall in love with the game, and paved the way for a lifetime involvement in the sport.

Monmouth Academy head coach Joe Fletcher watches a game against Mt. Abram earlier this season. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

For Fletcher and his children.

“I’m living the life and the dream that I wanted,” Fletcher said. “You know, I didn’t get to play a whole lot in college, but I’m living it now. I get paid to do something that I love to do every day. I look forward to it every day.”

Fletcher’s life involves coaching the varsity boys team at Monmouth Academy, as well as keeping track of the playing (and coaching) careers of his five kids, including Hayden, a sophomore who plays for Joe on the unbeaten Monmouth boys team (12-0-1).

“I think soccer was always a big thing in our house growing up,” said Haley, the family’s second-oldest child. “I don’t really remember when I started to love it, because as long as I can remember I was involved with the game in some way.”

“It’s always been (a big thing) as far back as I remember,” Kyle, the oldest child, said. “My dad used to coach at Richmond, and some of my earliest memories with sports are going to some of his games, hanging out with the kids on the bench. I was probably 4 years old at the time. Those are my earliest soccer memories. My whole life has been about soccer, mostly, sport-related-wise.”

Both Haley and Kyle graduated from Monmouth with their respective programs’ career scoring records before moving on to play in college. Haley is a sophomore forward for the University of Maine at Farmington’s women’s team. Kyle played at Thomas College, graduating in 2018, and is now the head coach of the Gray-New Gloucester High School boys team.

Bates’ Annie Doig, left, Cecelia Pilgrim, center, and University of Maine at Farmington’s Haley Fletcher converge on a bouncing ball during a game in Lewiston earlier this month. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Haley’s career scoring mark has since been surpassed by younger sister Audrey, who is a senior on the unbeaten Monmouth (13-0) girls team, and Hayden is on pace to surpass Kyle’s career goals total.

Joe and Julie Fletcher’s youngest child, Bryce, is a fourth-grader who Kyle said is “going to be fun to watch coming up through.”

BIRTH OF A PASSION

Joe Fletcher is in his 11th year at the helm of the Mustangs. His coaching career has spanned nearly 30 years.

His playing career didn’t even last three.

He played basketball growing up in the Mt. Desert Island area, and his middle school didn’t offer soccer. When he got to high school, the soccer coaches tried to recruit him, but he resisted for two years.

“I finally gave in and tried out my junior year, and did quite well — the first game I ever played I scored two goals against Bangor High School — and fell in love with the game, and I’ve been involved ever since,” Fletcher said.

He credited his high school head coach, John Rosenfeld, and assistant, Michael Jeffrey, for being influential and guiding him to college, despite his relatively short time with both men.

After graduating from MDI in 1983, Fletcher chose to continue his education and playing career at University of Maine at Presque Isle, but the playing part didn’t even last a season.

“Halfway through my freshman year I blew my knee out and I never recovered. I never played again,” Fletcher said. “I tried to recover, and then I transferred to Farmington, hoping to play there, and hurt my knee again.”

Fletcher said he “took it hard” that his career was over and that “it was kind of devastating to me.”

“You know, a young man that thinks he has a bull by the horns,” he said. “But I didn’t get to play, and I find myself from time to time thinking that, ‘You know what, I’m still probably as competitive as these 17- and 18-year-olds,’ which I don’t know if that’s a normal thing or not, but I’m still enjoying it.”

Fletcher’s passion for soccer and his competitiveness led him into coaching. He started his post-playing career as a middle school coach at Maranacook, then was an assistant at Richmond. He eventually took over the boys program at Oak Hill, where he “helped build a program there,” before getting the Monmouth job the same year that Kyle entered his freshman year there.

“It was perfect timing for me,” Fletcher said. “I didn’t want to miss my son’s games and I still wanted to coach, so it worked out really well.”

FATHER-SON COMBO

Just as he did at Oak Hill, Fletcher took over a struggling team at Monmouth. They went 5-9 that first year, with Joe as coach and Kyle as a high-scoring freshman.

“We had a strong freshmen class, which Kyle was a part of. Kyle, as a freshman, led the league in goals that year,” Fletcher said. “We just started to take off. We went from five (wins) to seven to 10 to 11. His last year we had 11 wins.”

Kyle Fletcher (17) played four seasons of soccer at Thomas College before graduating in 2018. He is now the head coach at Gray-New Gloucester High School. Thomas College athletics

Kyle Fletcher finished his high school career with 91 goals and 48 assists.

That freshman season was the first time Kyle had his dad as a coach, save for kicking the ball around in the backyard.

“I liked it, but it was different having a dad as a coach,” Kyle said. “And he’s the type of guy where he doesn’t want to baby you, and then (have) the other kids (say), ‘Well, you’re taking it easy on your son.’ So anything he could have done to make examples of me, he went above and beyond to try to make examples of me.

“I think it made me a better player, but he was tougher on me than any normal coach would have been.”

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

Kyle Fletcher was also tough on his disciples — his siblings, who had to deal with their older brother during backyard pickup games.

“It was very interesting because they’re all pretty competitive, and in the beginning I didn’t know how to deal with it because Kyle would bully his sisters,” Joe said. “I would try to rein him in, and they would say, ‘No, Dad, we want it like this.'”

“I can remember playing outside and just getting so frustrated that Kyle would always beat me,” Haley said. “Now I’m so thankful he didn’t take it easy on me because I know it helped me improve so much, and losing always makes you work harder.”

“Kyle would just play with me and just dribble right past me and just use me,” Audrey said. “And I remember getting so frustrated, and starting to cry, and then my dad would just be like, ‘Audrey it’s fine. He’s so much older than you. Just play hard. Don’t worry about it.’

“But I was so competitive, I wanted to beat them all. But I think that’s how we all kind of were, and in a way it made us all better.”

“They were pretty intense,” Hayden said. “You know, we used to get really mad about losing. A lot of bragging rights, stuff like that. It was pretty fun, though.”

Those backyard games were so important to the Fletchers that one time, when Hayden was still young (Kyle said he couldn’t have been more than 6 years old) he fell during a game and broke his pinkie finger. Kyle suggested that he tell their parents, but Hayden refused. Instead, he went into the house to get a winter glove to put over the finger to hide the injury.

“That kind of shows you a little bit of what we were like when we were younger,” Kyle said.

NO TIME OFF IN THE OFFSEASON

When seasons ended, soccer didn’t. The kids played different sports, but there was still always soccer to be played.

In the winter, the pickup games were brought indoors to what Kyle calls a “pretty decently sized kitchen.” The kitchen table was moved out of the way and laundry baskets brought in for goals.

“I think the nights when we would play in the kitchen will forever be my favorite,” Haley said. “We would make tournaments and pretend we were professional teams and play for hours, and Mom and Dad never discouraged us. Even after we broke stuff they never made us stop.”

“Even then it was still competitive,” Hayden said.

ONE AFTER THE OTHER

Soccer seems to always be competitive for the Fletchers, whether it be in the backyard, the kitchen, or in talking up their respective exploits.

“It’s competitive, for sure. And it’s frustrating at times, but it’s a lot of fun,” Audrey said. “It just makes you better, having siblings be good at the same sport and be passionate is pretty cool, and it just makes you want to be a better player. And especially for me to have Kyle and Haley as older role models, it’s pretty nice.”

Haley also called Kyle a role model.

“When I saw how well he did, it always pushed me to do better,” she said. “I always wanted to be just like him.”

“Even after he went to college he was always reminding me of his success, and it was more supportive because he knew I could always do better,” she added.

Haley did well in her own right for the Monmouth girls team, scoring a then-record 84 goals in her high school career before graduating in 2017.

Monmouth Academy’s Audrey Fletcher, left, shoots and scores ahead of Hall-Dale midfielder Rita Benoit last month in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Haley’s success was difficult for Audrey to avoid when she joined the Mustangs as a freshman and Haley was a senior in 2016.

“It kind of like made me want to be a better player myself because she set a good example for me, and (was) a good role model,” Audrey said. “And we would always just play together, and she’s always been someone that I’ve always strived to be like. In soccer she was doing so well, I just kind of took the lead and tried to be like her.”

Audrey has done that — and then some, as far as the numbers are concerned. She has already surpassed Haley’s career goals record (as well as Kyle’s) and has boosted the program record beyond the 100-goals mark.

Hayden is more than halfway to 100 despite not even being halfway through his high school career. With one regular season game left in his sophomore season, Hayden’s career total currently sits at 56 goals.

“At first, it put a lot of pressure (on me) because everyone’s saying, ‘You’re going to be like your brother. You’re going to be like your sister,'” Hayden said. “And you just kind of want to be your own player, and play how you want and try to do what you can.”

“It puts a lot of pressure on you to be as good as your older siblings,” he added. “It just makes you work harder, I guess.”

Hayden, like Kyle before him, has the added blessing and curse of having Joe as his coach.

Hayden Fletcher, center, of Monmouth Academy shoots on goal while being defended by Jack Tibbetts, left, and Caleb Phillips of Lisbon High School in Lisbon earlier this month. Fletcher scored one of this three goals on the kick to put the Mustangs up 2-0. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I think he’s probably more tough on me than anyone else,” Hayden said. “He expects a lot out of me.”

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that they work really hard,” Joe said. “There’s been times I’ve been hard on them. I’m more hard on Kyle and Hayden because I have them every day, and I’m sure there are times when they’re a little bit sick of Dad pushing them.”

“I like it just how it is. It’s perfectly good,” Hayden said of having a dad as a coach.

WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Then there’s Bryce, the youngest Fletcher who hasn’t yet put his mark on the Mustangs program — other than interacting with Joe’s players on the bench. As Kyle and Hayden did when they were younger, Bryce makes it to as many of his dad’s game as he can. And Joe, in turn, watches Bryce’s youth games.

Recently, Kyle saw his youngest brother play for the first time in a while when he helped Joe with a youth soccer tournament.

“Kyle hasn’t seen him play for a while, and he just commented — and I see it every day with Bryce because he will come to many of my practices — Bryce is so composed on the ball,” Joe said. “Kyle was very impressed with his play. It’s been a lot of fun to watch (Bryce) play because you can see that he’s thinking the game, and encouraging the older boys to do the right thing and to make the right play. So it’s been fun to watch.”

“He’s a little bit of a hybrid of all of us,” Kyle said. “He’s quick, he’s tough, he’s got really good touches. He can juggle a ball 30, 40 times, and he’s a (fourth) grader.”

WHAT ABOUT MOM?

Joe Fletcher has been a coach to his kids along with being their father. His wife, Julie, has been the coach in the classroom, at one time home-schooling all five children at once.

“I don’t know how she did it,” Kyle said. “I’m working in a school district now, and looking back on it, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but she put a lot, a lot of hard work into it.”

Kyle and Haley both were home-schooled all the way through school, while Audrey was through her first two years of high school, and Hayden up until high school.

Just as Joe pushed them on the field, Kyle said Julie pushed the siblings in the classroom.

Julie also plays an important role in the family’s out-of-the-classroom passion.

“She’s my rock. She’s been really supportive. She knows that this is a passion of mine,” Joe said. “In the beginning she wasn’t a fan of soccer, she’s a fan of her children, and wants them to play hard, and play fair, and be the best they can. She is so supportive of them. It would be really difficult to do if Julie wasn’t supporting me. She’s their biggest fan.”

FUTURE FOR THE FLETCHERS

The Fletchers’ story isn’t done at Monmouth Academy, not with Audrey’s top-ranked Mustangs awaiting the Class C South playoffs, Hayden having two more years to play and Bryce not even reaching high school yet.

Kyle Fletcher is in his first season as the varsity head coach of the Gray-New Gloucester boys soccer team. Submitted photo courtesy of Thom

Joe doesn’t appear to be slowing down, either.

“I’m still passionate about it,” he said. “So many coaches that I talk with, they’re looking forward to the season ending, they’re tired at this time of the year. And I’m tired, too, but I don’t want this to end, I want to ride it out. I’m still excited, and as long as I’m excited and passionate about it — and my body lets me — I’m going to continue to do this.”

Joe said he has received a lot of help from community members such as Paul Menice, Mike Pomerleau, Bob Michaud, Russ Neal and his family, Joe Menice, and Hunter Richardson and Matt Richardson.

Joe’s coaching career doesn’t seem close to ending, and Kyle’s is only getting started. He just completed his first regular season as varsity boys coach at Gray-New Gloucester, and now the Patriots (who compiled a 6-4-2 record) are getting ready for the Class B South playoffs.

“I’d like to think that I’m a version of my dad when I’m coaching,” Kyle said. “I use a lot of stuff that he did. We have kind of the same philosophy when it comes to coaching. I call him after every practice, every game, (or) he calls me. We just love talking about the game.”

Joe is impressed with Kyle’s coaching.

“Just seeing the composure that he has, and the style of play that he’s teaching, was really fun to watch,” said Joe, who got to see Kyle coach the Patriots to a tie with Yarmouth, the top-ranked team in B South. “And in the back of my mind, it’s really rewarding. A lot of fun.”

Haley, too, might join the coaching ranks soon.

“I go to school for elementary education, but I have a coaching minor and would love to coach when I’m older,” she said. “Soccer has taught me so much and I’m hoping someday I can give back to the sport that gave me so much.”


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