Scott Hunter was preparing to become a teacher and coach while he studied at Colby College in Waterville during the mid-1980s.
The Caribou High School alumnus played both soccer and basketball for the Mules, picking up knowledge along the way that he would use in the coaching ranks.
But then he decided to go to law school, followed by a return to his home town and a career as an attorney.
The coaching bug largely took a back seat, though he has been active in the Aroostook Youth Basketball League, AAU programs and recreation sports programs as well as a board-certified basketball official for the past 22 years.
Finally Hunter has joined the high school coaching ranks as the leader of the boys varsity soccer team at his alma mater.
He replaces Mark Shea, who stepped down after 11 seasons at Caribou, including a run of nine straight postseason appearances from 2001 through 2009.
“Originally, I wanted to teach and coach before I went into law,” said Hunter, the son of former Caribou athletic administrator Dwight Hunter. “This opportunity is a way to scratch that competitive itch and be involved in coaching, and I’m at a point where I can do that.”
Hunter said he has received a lot of support in his jump to the varsity coaching ranks from Shea, Caribou girls varsity soccer coach Todd Albert, local physician and Presque Isle hockey coach Carl Flynn, Caribou athletic administrator Dave Wakana and even his college soccer coach, Colby’s Mark Serdjenian.
Hunter met with Serdjenian earlier this summer while attending a retirement gala on the Colby campus for his former college basketball coach, Dick Whitmore.
And while there was a down side to that trip — Hunter tore his right ACL while playing in an alumni basketball game — he was able to visit some long-forgotten soccer strategies with Serdjenian.
“When I was at Colby playing for Mark and student-teaching freshman English at Waterville High, I used to think, ‘I know all these drills now, I know so much I can’t wait to go coach,’” he said. “Then I went to law school and now it’s 23 years later and I can’t remember most of it, I’ve forgotten so much.
“But when Mark heard I got the job, he was very supportive, he met with me and we went over some stuff, that’s been a big help.”
Hunter inherits a team that graduated 10 seniors after finishing 3-8-3 in Eastern Maine Class B last fall.
“I’ve got one senior on the team, so we’re young, but a lot of the juniors who are back saw significant time last year, and my one senior, Chad Caverhill, was one of the top players in the conference last year,” said Hunter. “We also had a good group on the JVs last year who are now sophomores, and they’re being asked to step in and contribute right off.
“I’m excited, but this is a good time to be starting. We’re young, but we’re athletic and we’re working hard, which is a big thing.”
Caribou went 2-2-2 during the recent Presque Isle Invitational preseason tournament.
“I wanted to see if the guys work hard, and I wanted them to play to win and I’ve seen that, so I’m very happy,” said Hunter. “I also want them to gain some confidence and know that they can play soccer. When you lose as much as they did last year, I worry that they begin to expect it and accept it, and that’s not going to be what we’re all about. And they’re not. They’ve been disappointed when we’ve lost, they expect to win, and even though they’re young, that’s how I want them to go into every contest.”
Caribou begins its regular season Aug. 26 at Madawaska.
“I think we’re a team that will get better as the season goes on,” Hunter said. “As long as we don’t get down and keep our poise, and I think we might surprise some people before we’re done.”
Gendreau takes Madawaska helm
Among the other new boys varsity soccer coaches in The County this year is Dean Gendreau, who has swapped jobs with Ben Sirois at Madawaska.
Gendreau was the school’s athletic administrator last year, a position Siriois now holds.
“I worked six years coaching with Ben and then took three years off with a young family, then when Ben got done this year, he and I had a conversation and he thought the kids would respect me,” said Gendreau, who also serves as Madawaska’s recreation director. “I knew the kids pretty well and we had worked well before so he thought it would be a good change.
“I’m really enjoying this and the boys have been really receptive to it and are working hard and we’re having a good time.”
Madawaska is coming off a 9-6 season that ended with a loss to Orono in the Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinals.
“I think we can be pretty decent,” Gendreau said. “But we’re filling in some holes. I graduated four seniors, but I also lost three kids who probably would have started. Two chose not to come out and one’s moving, so you lose a lot of experience from that.”
Among the returning players for the Owls are senior midfielder Dylan Wetmore, senior center fullback Carl Tardiff, sophomore forward Ian Lee and sophomore center midfielder Sam Cyr.
“I’ve got some good senior leadership, they’re stepping up and showing the younger kids what to do,” said Gendreau. “I’ve also got some freshmen starting, and they’re being thrown into the fire right away, but they’re doing a good job. They’re all working hard.”
Madawaska opened its season at home Tuesday with a 4-2 win over Central Aroostook of Mars Hill after placing second among seven teams last weekend at the Presque Isle Invitational preseason tournament. The Owls’ only losses in that tourney were to Class B Presque Isle.
“For me it was a chance to see the kids 25 minutes at a time and correct some little mistakes as they play,” Gendreau said. “It’s a good learning experience for the kids, because when they make a mistake, you fix it, and when they make a good play, you tell them.”
“It was good to see other teams. We’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks now and we want to get going.”