When Rich Nutter took over the volleyball coaching position at Woodland High School in 1988, the sport didn’t even have any reaches outside of Washington County.
Over 20 years later, high school volleyball has grown to 21 schools across the state fielding varsity teams.
Nutter, who piloted the Dragons to three state championships and six appearances in state championship matches, has decided to retire from the post.
Nutter, who lives in Bangor and also coaches girls’ varsity tennis at Hampden Academy, cited the long travel from the Queen City to Woodland as one of his main reasons to retire.
“The distance to travel to be away from my wife for two and a half months, it just felt like it was about time,” said Nutter. “Riding Route 9 at midnight dodging moose wasn’t fun.”
Oftentimes during volleyball season, Nutter would spend a week at his family’s cottage on Big Lake in Princeton and return to Bangor after Friday practices or matches.
Nutter has been involved with athletics at Woodland since 1971, having enjoyed stints as the boys’ and girls’ tennis coach, the athletic administrator, and student council advisor while also coaching junior high boys basketball in the town.
Volleyball’s growth has been impressive to Nutter. The sport wasn’t sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association until 1997 — up until then Woodland competed only in the Downeast Athletic Conference.
“There were 11 schools the first year, it’s grown every year so we have a Class A and a Class B, the southern schools are really picking it up,” said Nutter. “The talent has gotten a lot better over the years. We’re just waiting for some of the Bangor schools to get going with it.”
Nutter’s program has produced some talented players over the years, including Julia Knights, Ashley Marble and Katie Holmes, and he closes his career with an impressive 250-97 record.
“I really had a great rapport with the girls. I had a lot of fun [coaching] the girls,” he said.
Nutter has also coached 27 all-state players, three Gatorade Players of the Year, and two state championship match MVPs while also winning eight conference crowns.
“We were really fortunate. Since the MPA picked it up we haven’t had a losing record,” Nutter said. “But that’s a credit to the girls. They really wanted to work hard and have fun at the same time. It makes it worthwhile.”
Woodland won state championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and won 59 consecutive matches over that span.
Nutter has also served as president of the Maine Volleyball Coaches Association since 2000, and is a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
He’s also on the Eastern Maine Board of Approved Basketball Officials, and said he plans on coaching tennis at Hampden for the “foreseeable future.”
“I just enjoy being around the kids and trying to keep with them keeps you a little younger than you’d normally be,” he said.
However, now that Nutter has relinquished his Woodland coaching position, he also plans to spend some more time playing golf, fishing and hunting.