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Summer months no picnic for busy University of Maine head coaches

Michael C. York | BDN
Michael C. York | BDN
Maine baseball head coach Steve Trimper describes the basics of a good bat-grip to baseball campers at Mahaney Diamond, Orono, Thursday, June 28, 2012.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Scott Atherley spent 12 hours Thursday under bright sunshine, some of it in 100-degree temperatures. He was evaluating some of the country’s best young soccer players — in Chicago.

It was a typical summer day for the head women’s soccer coach at the University of Maine.

“I’m a little fried. I’ve been out in the sun all day,” said Atherley, who was attending the Elite Clubs National League championship tournament.

“It’s a never-ending process,” he said. “Summer is an opportunity for us to be efficient with our recruiting.”

Black Bear head coaches take advantage of the summer months — when school is out and most of their student-athletes are at home, working or competing in offseason leagues — to recruit, host youth summer camps and catch up on other work.

That usually means spending considerable time on the road, away from family and friends.

It’s no picnic.

Recruiting season

His family is scheduled to spend two weeks on Cape Cod in July, but UMaine baseball coach Steve Trimper’s initial departure will be delayed. He will remain on campus to meet with recruits for a couple of days.

There will eventually be some vacation time, but after more recruiting.

“I see the Bay State Games the first week we’re down there, July 10-11-12,” Trimper said of his first recruiting stop, which includes four games per day.

He’ll then drive to Boston for a flight to Toronto, where he’ll spend July 13-15 at Canada’s 40-man camp, where the provincial all-star team is chosen.

“I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, ‘Hey, what do you do all summer?’” Trimper said, unable to contain a laugh. “Honestly, my summer is sometimes busier than all of our seasons, including the playing season.”

Coaches often are on the road for three or four days at a time, two or three times a month, to attend major events where many potential recruits can be seen. July is a whirlwind month for basketball coaches Ted Woodward and Richard Barron, who go to see up-and-coming players compete during AAU tournaments and other showcases.

“There are a number of national tournaments in the U.S. that we attend and some in Canada,” said UMaine field hockey coach Josette Babineau.

“We just got back from a national event in Virginia Beach, the U.S. Futures Tournament,” added Babineau, who is among the coaches of fall sports whose summers are even more compressed.

Speaking to the summer schedule, men’s ice hockey coach Tim Whitehead could not be reached for comment as he was recruiting in Canada. Barron reportedly was taking some time off and also was unavailable.

Preparing for next season

UMaine’s 2012-13 academic year doesn’t begin until Sept. 4, but athletes involved in fall sports begin arriving at the end of July. The first practice for the women’s soccer team is Aug. 1, the field hockey squad reports Aug. 7 and the football team kicks things off Aug. 12.

“We’re five weeks away from the start of season,” Babineau said Wednesday. “We’ve been working with our incoming class, making sure they’ve got everything ready for admission to the school and the [NCAA] Clearinghouse.”

Saturday also marks the end of the fiscal year at UMaine. That presents a critical budgeting deadline coaches must meet.

Head football coach Jack Cosgrove said he and his staff in June started setting up their August preseason practice schedule and initial 2012 game preparation.

“We start scouting our first three opponents and doing the preliminary game plans,” he said. “We have the breakdowns and all that stuff in the computers.”

Most UMaine coaches also are actively involved in their respective summer youth camps. Several of the teams hold two sessions of three to five days each.

UMaine’s two field hockey camps cater to more than 200 youngsters.

“Camps are fun for us, too, because it’s a break from what we regularly do,” Babineau said.

Catching their breath

Finding time off, both in quantity and quality, is difficult. Most coaches will take a few days or an occasional long weekend.

“What I try to do right before the season, if I can, is get away for a couple, three, days to clear the senses and re-energize a little bit heading into the season,” Atherley said.

Cosgrove’s respite is watching his children play ASA softball and AAU basketball on weekends.

“We enjoy that, it’s a lot of fun. It’s something I want to go watch,” he said.

Trimper feels fortunate to be able to enjoy his favorite hobby — hunting — but that’s in November after the baseball team wraps up its fall season.

Babineau said the best times for her to take a breather are late May and during Christmas break in December.

Once the warm weather sets in, she often thinks about the links.

“I wish I was working on my golf game a little bit more,” Babineau said with a chuckle.

Trimper quipped that a coach who possesses polished golf skills might send the wrong message.

“If someone asks me my handicap and I tell them it’s below 10, I’m probably not a good baseball coach,” he said.

Some UMaine coaches do get the chance to play during their respective annual tournaments. The summer months lend themselves outdoor fundraising activities.

The baseball golf tourney brings in approximately $25,000, which makes its spring break trip possible. Trimper said he must raise more than 50 percent of his annual budget.

Cosgrove also conducts some summer “friend-raising” with benefactors and potential donors.

“It’s engaging them, keeping them informed and making them feel like they’re part of your program,” he explained.

Despite the busy schedule, UMaine coaches aren’t complaining about having to spend most of their summer working and on the road.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got the best job in the world,” Atherley said. “It’s part of the job, but it’s a great way to make a living.”

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