The increased use of technology in football once led Mark Arnold away from the gridiron.
But a subsequent career path focused on technology not only brought him back to school but also spawned new opportunities to return to the sidelines, now as the head coach at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor.
Arnold, the Trojans’ defensive coordinator for the last five seasons, was promoted to head coach recently to replace Mark Shields, who retired from the post last month after 15 years.
“Mark (Arnold) brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the MDI football program and we are very fortunate to find a person of his ability to step in and take over at this time,” said MDI activities director Bunky Dow in a statement. “Mark is a student of the game and has a very good defensive mind in developing a game plan for each week’s opponent.
“The returning players have a great deal of respect for coach Arnold and are familiar with his daily expectations of them. I’m looking forward to working with him. “
Arnold was a member of the University of Michigan football team for two years before joining the school’s track and field team while also working in the athletic department.
He then joined the coaching ranks, first in Wisconsin and then back in Michigan before opting for a career change.
“The technology that we started to use as part of our football programs early in my career as a coach made me more familiar with those technologies as they started to be put into the classroom,” Arnold said. “I got involved with a couple of statewide educational technology projects and then got involved with a project through Harvard and that brought me to Vermont.”
Arnold met his wife there and together they decided to move nearer to the water, as Arnold had grown up on a lake in Michigan.
The Arnolds ultimately opted for a larger body of water and moved to Maine where he worked at Deer Isle-Stonington High School for three years before becoming the education technology director at MDI nine years ago.
“Part of the reasoning for that move was because I wanted to get back into coaching and there was an opportunity here for that,” said Arnold, who now lives in Ellsworth.
MDI football has been on a strong run of late, winning the 2016 Class B North championship and returning to the title game again last fall. Under Shields’ guidance MDI compiled a 74-68 record overall, including a combined 18-4 the last two seasons.
But that recent success hasn’t produced a corresponding surge in participation within the school system — an issue facing high school football programs around the state.
The last two MDI High School teams had approximately 30 players, and Arnold anticipates two particularly small freshman football classes after this fall’s incoming group.
“One of the big focuses for me in coming on is really taking a look at the program all the way down to our youngest levels and try to figure out why we’ve had a fall-off, especially at our middle-school level, in terms of the number of kids who are participating.”
Arnold said efforts have been underway under Shields’ leadership to broaden the benefits of playing football at MDI beyond mere competition.
“We’ve worked hard year-round to build a family atmosphere,” he said. “The real goal here isn’t winning football games, the real goal for us is helping our players become better people and better equipped to be better family members and better community members.
“I think all those are things that require passion in a person’s life, and we want kids involved in our program because they’re passionate about the game because when you really have a passion for something it provides the kind of opportunities where you can make a lasting impact on people’s lives and build on that passion in other important ways.”