Josh Kennison is the new boys soccer coach at Poland Regional High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

If the Poland boys soccer team needs a strong dose of inspiration this season, they need look no further than their new head coach — Josh Kennison.

The South Paris elite para-athlete, who refused to allow obstacles to stand in his way of living a fruitful life, was born missing his feet, arms, tongue and half of his jaw. In July 2013, he arrived in Lyon, France, to compete in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships — where he won a bronze medal.

Besides his athletic accomplishments as a sprinter and long jumper, he is also a motivational speaker who is a recipient of the 2010 Amway Hero award.

Kennison will use his boundless energy and insight to motivate the Poland Knights, who are in the midst of their summer soccer program, which Kennison runs. He also coaches track and field at Poland.

“I am a retired para-Olympic track and field athlete,” Kennison said. “I have been coaching my whole adult life and I have never had an opportunity to coach boys varsity soccer.

“I just want to tell people that no matter what you are born with, no matter the circumstance, you can do anything you set your mind to.”


Kennison said the atmosphere at Poland Regional High School feels right for him.

“I love it and they love me, too,” Kennison said

Kennison has set goals for the Knights this coming season.

“In the Poland boys soccer history, we have never had a .500 or better (record),” he said. “So my goal coming into this program (is to) really start from the top down and change the culture in this program and basically provide the boys with a positive experience. With all that, hopefully we will have success.”

Kennison’s enthusiasm and goals are among the numerous reasons why he was hired by Poland athletic director Don King.

“I know Josh as coach over at Oxford Hills and he has some history at Telstar,” King said. “But one of the things that stands out for me with Josh is he is a remarkable individual. His email address is ‘you can do anything.’ He treats kids well. He understands the value of culture. He doesn’t understand barriers.”


Kennison competed in track and field and soccer when he was a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, from which he graduated in 2008.

He recently coached track and field and girls soccer at Telstar for several years. King said that Kennison also has made an impact coaching middle school athletes.

“(Josh) coached indoor and outdoor track at my middle school for a couple of years,” King said. “I had a young lady who decided to try track. She did outdoor track. (Her) mom said, ‘She is not crazy over (track). She really prefers basketball, but she is going to continue to do track as long as (Josh) is coaching.’ The reason why (her daughter) loved this spring was because she is impressed with him.”

Kennison is looking forward to the task of bringing success to the high school’s boys soccer program.

“The challenge (is) helping the boys become better people,” he said, “and help this program be a good place for boys to come and play and learn — and not just learn about sports — but to learn about life.”

King said it is important for the Poland players and coaches to not let the past have any effect on the present.


“Our soccer program, honestly, we’ve struggled to gain traction in the Western Maine Conference — and that is probably an understatement,” King said. “So I need somebody that can not look at the reasons why we can’t be successful.

“But I need somebody that can define success and help kids reach it — and I think that’s what Josh had to do his whole life. He has had a few weeks doing the summer program and it is going pretty well. (Josh) is excited. We have 24 kids showing up for soccer and there will be more once we start the fall practices. When (Josh) was at Telstar, he goes, ‘We never had enough for a JV game.”

Kennison was approached by King concerning the boys soccer job.

“I kind of knew Don and I talked to him and he said the boys slot is open and I applied,” Kennison said.

Kennison is curious to see where this season will take the Poland Knights.

“My expectations are not sky high, but they are high enough so that we will change the culture and change how we look at playing the soccer,” he said.

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