Allen Holmes always “got it.”
You know that little two-word phrase that refers to someone who thoroughly understands his responsibilities and implements them with remarkable consistency.
In his 40 years as the field hockey coach at Belfast High School, the recently-retired Holmes not only developed one of the most consistently successful programs in any sport in the state, he was also a terrific role model to the young women he coached.
Three years after graduating from Aroostook State College (now the University of Maine-Presque Isle), he was teaching middle school physical education at the Crosby Middle School in his native Belfast and a new sport was being offered in the fall of 1973: field hockey.
By his own admission, Holmes was an “energetic” young man with a thirst to coach.
“The teachers had all of the coaching jobs back then,” said Holmes who applied for the field hockey job and got it.
He scrambled to learn as much as he could about the sport: filming an exhibition game at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, attending clinics, reading books and asking lots of questions.
His first team went 0-8-1 and never scored a goal.
“We tied Lawrence 0-0 under the lights,” he recalled.
The next 39 seasons were all winning ones.
There were 13 Eastern Maine Class B championships and seven state titles.
More than 130 of his players went on to play in college.
He will still coach third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. They will eventually wear the Belfast High uniforms.
That is part of the well-developed feeder system he established.
It’s a uniform that is cherished by the young girls in the community.
They aspire to play for the Lions because Holmes made it a special honor through his coaching and the life lessons he taught.
They were always good because he learned the sport inside and out and preached fundamentals and work ethic. He was also innovative and implemented a style of play that best suited his talent.
He won 462 games and lost only 162. There were 43 ties.
He got the most out of his players through constructive criticism as well as praise. They were always well-prepared for every opponent.
He was meant to coach. It was his calling. He was a positive influence on his players and stressed that they carry themselves in a classy manner in defeat as well as victory.
He was also a pleasure to deal with as a member of the media. He always reported his games, win or lose, and made sure you had the information you needed.
Holmes said he doesn’t intend to attend Belfast High field hockey games next year because he doesn’t want to create any awkwardness for the new coach.
But I think he’ll find his way to sift into the background and watch.
He is a delightful person with a good sense-of-humor. That sense-of-humor would often be exhibited during games.
He will continue to be a loyal Belfast High School fan in all sports and he will continue to help run his family business: Holmes Greenhouse and Florist Shop in Belfast.
It will seem odd not having him on the Belfast sidelines next fall.
He will be sorely missed.