BELFAST, Maine — Allen Holmes, who coached the Belfast High School field hockey team to 432 wins, seven state Class B championships and 13 Eastern Maine B titles, has retired after 40 seasons.
He gave his resignation to Belfast athletic director Mark Babin on Tuesday and it was presented to the school board Tuesday night.
“It was a tough decision,” said the 64-year-old Holmes, who wants to devote more time to the family business, the Holmes Greenhouse and Florist Shop in Belfast.
“But when you look at how long I’ve been coaching and the amount of time I’ve put in [it was the right time to retire]. I also want to have more time for myself,” added Holmes. “My wife [Ruth] is retired and we’d like to do a little more traveling.”
Holmes started the program and compiled a 432-162-43 record. His first team went 0-8-1, but that was the only time his teams didn’t post a winning record.
Holmes led the Lions to the Eastern Maine title this past fall after winning the state title in 2011.
Holmes admitted that he almost retired at the end of last season.
“But I like even numbers and I knew we had a pretty good group coming back. This year’s team certainly exceeded expectations. So it all worked out pretty well,” said Holmes.
Holmes is a Belfast native who played four years of basketball and baseball at Belfast High and also played a year of football.
He earned a degree in physical education from Aroostook State College (currently the University of Maine-Presque Isle), where he played baseball, and returned to Belfast to teach middle school physical education before retiring in 2000.
Belfast started a field hockey program in 1973, and Holmes landed the job.
Holmes admitted that he didn’t know much about the sport, so when he found out about a field hockey exhibition game between a Canadian team and an all-star team from the Northeast at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, “I took my father’s super-8 [camera], filmed it, developed it and watched it.”
He also attended clinics and read books on it.
“I tried to make our drills as game-like as possible,” said Holmes.
After that winless first season, he went 4-3-2 in his second year.
“Sharon Fuller scored four goals and we won four 1-0 games,” recalled Holmes.
He started a feeder program and was able to add a friend, Bob Brown, to be his JV coach, and they worked together for 16 years.
“When I was both the varsity and JV coach, I couldn’t spend enough time with each team to do what I needed to do. Bob and I had a great rapport with the girls,” said Holmes. “Bob is a great guy. He is very intelligent and he loved the sport like I did.”
He reached the state final the first year it was sponsored by the Maine Principals’ Association, 1976, but his Lions lost to Livermore Falls 2-1.
He considers the seven state championship seasons to be the highlights, but he was also proud of his second-year team that won four games after the winless first season.
He said he always taken a lot of pride in “how we presented ourselves on the field and I tried to make sure we kept our heads up, win or lose. We always tried to have great sportsmanship, great skills and we tried to play controlled hockey.”
Holmes has had more than 130 of his players go on to play college field hockey and he has had several assist him “which has given us a lot of consistency and helped us be successful over the years because we’re all teaching the same things.”
He had the pleasure of coaching his daughter Jan [Holmes-Jackson], who is now the coach at Camden Hills.
“It is amazing what he’s done for so many kids in that area and how many lives he has touched,” said John Bapst coach Gina Schuck. “To have over 130 players go on to play college field hockey is impressive. He built an amazing program.”
She said Holmes instilled confidence in his players that enabled them to be successful in life as well as field hockey and the girls in the feeder program aspired to play for him when they got to high school.
“Allen has had an incredible influence on athletics, not just field hockey,” said Babin. “He has been tremendous. He has been such a positive role model. It’s not just about wins and losses.”
He pointed out that Holmes also keeps the scorebook for the boys and girls varsity and JV basketball games.
“He really does bleed blue and gold,” said Babin. “It’ll be a huge set of shoes to fill for me.”
Holmes praised his wife and the Belfast administration for their support throughout the years and said he thoroughly enjoyed coaching the girls.
He will continue coaching third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in the fall, he said.