ORONO, Maine — Basketball has always been an important part of Tracy Guerrette’s life.
The St. Agatha native has demonstrated her passion for the game as a player, coach and support staff member.
Yet for Guerrette, basketball takes a backseat to the most important aspect of her life — her Catholic faith.
“I’m 32, so when the Lord keeps tugging at your heart, nothing else will suffice but to give him my whole life,” Guerrette said. “He’s poured out his love into my heart so much so that I can’t help but, in turn, give him everything.”
Thus, Guerrette has given up her position as the director of basketball operations for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
She plans to pursue a religious vocation, possibly with a community of women or sisters.
“This is something that’s been in my heart, actually, for the last several years,” Guerrette said.
She said she has contemplated religious life throughout her time as a teacher and coach at Wisdom High School in St. Agatha, as a coach and staff member at the University of Maine-Presque Isle and during her 18 months at UMaine.
“This is something that I’ve been praying about, very seriously, and discerning as well,” added Guerrette, who has been active in organizations such as Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and has served in her local parish’s youth ministry.
On her faith journey, she has visited different religious communities as she attempts to determine her course. In 2011, Guerrette was ready to take a step back and take the time to determine what direction to take in pursuing full-time ministry.
She instead wound up taking a more familiar path after Richard Barron was hired as the head women’s basketball coach at UMaine. Faith was something they shared.
“That’s how we first really kind of got talking was she was trying to decide what she wanted to do,” said Barron who, two years earlier, had seriously explored becoming a Presbyterian minister like his father, William Barron.
“We talked about those experiences that I had, what it was like deciding to stay with coaching,” Barron explained.
He had been accepted at the Princeton Theological Seminary prior to accepting the UMaine job.
Guerrette, who was trying to figure out whether to embrace a religious vocation, instead joined UMaine as its director of basketball operations.
“How could I turn down an opportunity to be a part of the University of Maine basketball program,” Guerrette said. “After meeting coach Barron I decided to take this position and it’s been wonderful.”
Guerrette led Wisdom to a Class D state championship in 1998. A year later, she was a member of the team that beat Stanford for the program’s first, and only, NCAA tournament victory.
Guerrette played at UMaine from 1998-2002, quickly going from a walk-on to a scholarship student-athlete. She was a two-time captain under coaches Joanne Palombo McCallie and Sharon Versyp.
Her experience playing and coaching basketball, and working as a sports information direction, helped Guerrette excel in her most recent position, which she officially left on Dec. 31.
“It’s a lot of stuff nobody wants to do, and you’re also giving up a chance to coach on the floor,” Barron said of the basketball operations job.
The position entailed numerous responsibilities, including working with budgets and expense reports, and making team travel plans, organizing meals, and coordinating practice times and ticket lists.
Guerrette also coordinated team managers and practices and served as the team liaison to the Friends of Maine Women’s Basketball booster group.
“She’s done a great job,” Barron said. “She’s such a selfless person. She’s always doing what she can to help the team.”
Guerrette said she had planned to pursue a religious vocation starting last summer but, with no concrete plan in place, agreed to remain at UMaine for the fall semester. That enabled her to train her successor, former UMaine player and manager Samantha Wheeler, who last month completed her degree work in psychology.
“Sam’s been working very closely with me,” Guerrette said. “She’s been my right-hand man. She’s seen everything I do day to day.”
In the meantime, Barron afforded Guerrette the opportunity to visit some religious communities during the fall as she prepared to make the transition to that lifestyle.
Guerrette admits that while she is committed to pursuing religious life, it will require contemplation and prayer to ascertain which opportunity, if any, is the right one.
“It’s a very intimate and personal call, so it’s hard to share it and to talk about it,” she said. “I really feel the need to take a step back and discern this seriously, because it’s been in my heart for so long.”
She will look back fondly on her time at UMaine. On Tuesday, she completed her duties by distributing meal money to the Black Bear players, then shared a hug with them.
“It’s going to be really hard to leave because I love the team so much and I love the coaching staff,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed everybody I’ve worked with. It’s been such a wonderful experience.”
Guerrette is confident Barron and his staff will help mold this year’s youthful team into an eventual winner. She plans to be in the stands, cheering the Black Bears on, when she is able.
As she looks ahead, Guerrette is focused on making service to God her top priority.
“I truly believe that God has a plan and purpose for your life and in it is your ultimate happiness,” Guerrette said. “I just want to work for Him and give Him my whole life and how can I not? I’ve just been so blessed.”