Lewiston High School tennis coach Anita Murphy gives senior Abby Svor a fist bump during the state singles tournament on May 22 in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

When she first started coaching, Lewiston girls tennis coach Anita Murphy didn’t know exactly how team matches were played.

Now, 43 years later, every match played at Lewiston High School will take place at the Coach Anita Murphy Tennis Courts.

Thanks to a push and recommendation from Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller, the Lewiston City Council last week formally approved the name change for the previously named Franklin Tennis Courts.

In his recommendation letter to the city council, Fuller said: “It is my opinion that it’s time for this community to recognize Coach Anita Murphy. I can think of no better way than naming the Franklin Tennis Courts in her honor. I ask that this request be considered immediately so we can honor Anita before she retires.”

Murphy said she hasn’t yet made a decision regarding when she will retire.

She was on her way home from an away match when Fuller texted her that the city council was acting on his recommendation, and when she pulled into her driveway she saw a follow-up text that read, “Done.”

“My heart was fluttering and I started to think about it. What an honor and so humbling, I can’t even describe it,” Murphy said. “This is something I never thought about; I might not sleep tonight.”

In Fuller’s estimation, no one has spent more waking moments at those tennis courts than Murphy.

“It’s what she does,” he said. “When March hits, she’s pretty much in tennis mode until September.”

Murphy’s connection to the courts isn’t lost on her.

“Since the courts have been constructed (in the early 1990s) I’ve spent a good part of my time there coaching the high school teams, directing the summer recreation programs, both youth and adult leagues,” she said. “Driving by daily, I can’t go by without looking to see if the snow is still on the courts, if the nets are up, and who’s playing on them.”

Thousands have played on them, but no one has had more coaching success on them than Murphy, who first started coaching in 1979. Her love of the game and her son’s growing interest got her into coaching, even if, at the time, she didn’t know all of the ins and outs of leading a team.

She soon proved really good at coaching. In 1983, the Blue Devils won conference and regional titles and finished as the state runners-up. They won their first state title under Murphy a year later, and have won 12 more since — most recently in 2019.

She’s been named coach of the year at the conference, state and national levels and won more than 500 matches as a high school coach.

Just as important has been her work with the Lewiston Rec Department program.

“The boys teams at Lewiston always did well, but it was because they had a good start playing tennis in her program,” said Ron Chicoine, Murphy’s son and the Lewiston boys coach from 2002-11. “They enjoyed tennis, they learned how to play, they learned how to play the right way, fairly. And they enjoyed tennis, it was something that was fun.

“And by the time they got to high school, you had a number of kids who had been exposed to tennis and enjoyed it, and even though we don’t have an indoor facility in Lewiston to practice at during the winter — like most of the other parts of the state do — we were able to develop teams that did well and could compete against the teams from wealthier communities.”

Matches that involved family are some of Murphy’s favorite memories from her long coaching career.

She coached her daughter, Wendy Chicoine Poutre (now the girls coach at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire) to a doubles championship with partner Anne-Marie Girard in 1980 — the same year Ron Chicoine was the state runner-up in the boys individual tournament.

During the time that she was the girls coach and her son was the boys coach at Lewiston, Ron Chicoine’s teams won eight state titles in nine years and Murphy’s teams claimed six state championships. (Before Ron took over the Blue Devils, his dad, and Murphy’s ex-husband, Rene Chicoine coached them to seven state titles in 26 seasons.)

The 2007 dual titles were the most memorable for both Murphy and Chicoine. That same day, Chicoine’s son (and Murphy’s grandson) Calvin also won a state title while playing for North Yarmouth Academy. Calvin’s match win was the decisive point for the Panthers.

Murphy said that her team’s most recent state title was probably her personal favorite because she was able to coach her only granddaughter, Molly Chicoine (Ron’s niece) on a championship-winning team.

“It’s amazing because she’s coached through a lot of different generations of kids, but they’ve all responded really in the same way. They’ve all performed really well and responded to her coaching,” Ron Chicoine said. “Not necessarily Xs and Os, but just the how to compete and how to have fun competing. Having success and enjoying success. I think that she’s done a great job over 40 years, and it’s amazing that someone could coach that long because certainly culturally a lot of things have changed, and she’s grown along with that.”

Fuller said that he thinks it’s Murphy’s passion for tennis that has kept her coaching.

“She enjoys it so much, and she enjoys being around the kids. And those are things that she cherishes, just those interactions with the kids, and the bus rides where you’re laughing on the bus and having fun,” Fuller said. “I think Anita has always loved those experiences, and because of it she’s still doing it.”

Murphy said the people she’s connected with through tennis over four decades has been a driving force for her.

“It’s not what I accomplished, it’s all the girls who played for me, varsity or JV,” she said. “I wish each and every one of their names could be on the sign. They’re the reason for the success of tennis from Lewiston.”

Lewiston High School tennis coach Anita Murphy talks with senior Abby Svor on Saturday after Svor lost her state singles tournament match to Anna Barnes of Brunswick. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

And they keep coming back to those courts, even after their high school playing days are over. Fuller said he sees alumni at the courts all the time, and that it’s a testament to who Murphy is.

Ron Chicoine noted that opposing coaches and players have always been friendly with Murphy, “and that’s a tribute to her personality and a tribute to her as a person.” He also called her a role model for the community, especially women and young women growing up.

Murphy has poured her heart into tennis in Lewiston, and even a heart attack in 2008 couldn’t stop her from continuing to coach.

“She’s not going to let those things get in her way. She’s a very determined woman and she’s going to do what she wants to do,” Fuller said. “She has a drive to her. And when she had the heart attack, it was just before we had a nice real, long run of things and I think she knew that, and it gave her something to look forward to. She wasn’t going to let that hold her back and not live her life, or do the things she wants to do.”

Fuller was determined to make sure that Murphy would be able to experience the courts being named after her.

“I think so often we wait to name things till people aren’t around to experience it, they’ve passed away. I think sometimes we got to do it when they’re here, and they can experience it, and see how much the community cares for them and how much of an impact they’ve left behind,” Fuller said. “So I think it’s real important to do this now, I think it’s the perfect time to do this.”

Chicoine said he is glad that his mother will be part of the dedication, which Fuller said will likely take place in June.

“I think it’s a good honor, a great honor for her,” Chicoine said. “I mean, she’s had a lot of great honors. She’s been national high school tennis coach of the year twice. I mean, who gets to do that from Maine? That’s amazing. So it’s just a feather in her cap, I think, capping off her career and recognizing what she did for the community, especially the Rec Department.”

Since the city council’s action last week, Murphy has already spent a lot of time coaching on the courts that will soon literally bear her name. The Blue Devils have had two team matches, and the courts hosted the singles state tournament, during which Lewiston’s Julia Svor advanced to the quarterfinals and Abby Svor reached the Round of 16.

Murphy has already had the chance to coach on the courts that now bear her name, with the Blue Devils playing two matches on the court since last Tuesday’s city council action. Even she’s not sure how many more matches she will be a part of on the courts, but she knows she still has a lot of tennis in her future.

“I often see people who will come up to me and ask, ‘Are you still coaching?’ When I tell them yes, they’re in awe. It’s only 43 years, I tell them. Seems like yesterday,” Murphy said. “If and when I do retire, I’ll be very busy following my granddaughter play at Husson University and also try to make a few matches watching the Svor twins. Hopefully my daughter will continue coaching, and I plan on supporting her as well.”


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