Coaching a sport in each high school season is a difficult task even for Waterville’s Ian Wilson, whose track teams have enough state championship banners to cover a gymnasium wall or two.
After his girls soccer team lost to Cape Elizabeth on penalty kicks in the Class B state championship game, he gave his indoor track team the Thanksgiving break off, really more to recharge his batteries than anything else.
“It’s a difficult transition when your teams go deep into the playoffs,” he said.
Wilson’s teams almost always go deep into the playoffs. This year’s soccer team knocked off unbeaten Hermon in the Eastern Maine regional before losing to a favored Cape team in the state final.
“I thought is was really evenly played,” Wilson said. “Not a lot of people thought we would play with them. Our kids were not intimidated.”
For his efforts, Wilson has been selected Morning Sentinel Girls Soccer Coach of the Year. Also considered were Madison’s Mike Herrick and Carrabec’s Silas Bell.
Wilson is all about getting his players to believe in themselves and pushing them to new heights. Junior striker Pilar Elias transferred from Winslow this season knowing little about her new coach.
“I had heard about him but I had never met him,” Elias said. “He is very tough, very competitive and I love it. I haven’t many coaches that really pushed me. His competitiveness made all the girls on the team competitive.”
Although Wilson coached the Waterville girls to a Class A soccer state championship in 2008, most of his coaching success has come in track where his teams have accounted for 20 state titles. Wilson’s background, however, is in soccer beginning when he played at Mt. View High School and later at Bates College. He has coached at Mt. View and Messalonskee and this is his second stint at Waterville.
“My summer is really devoted to soccer,” he said.
There are similarities in both sports, but soccer is more of a team sport and Wilson pays close attention to developing team leaders.
“If you haven’t developed them as leaders at a younger age, you can have a void in leadership,” he said.
If motivating his athletes is Wilson’s strong suit, strategy and execution aren’t far behind. He believes in building from the goal out and making each player accountable.
“We want to defend really well,” he said. “I’m not a big believer in gimmicky defenses, We try to have possession of the ball and to create 2 on 1 situations as often as possible.”
Wilson’s expertise was put to the test against Hermon when he found his players outmanned in the center of the field..
“We were getting beat the first 15 or 20 minutes,” he said. “We had to come out of our formation (4-4-2) and match them at midfield.”
Wilson switched to a 4-3-3 formation and it worked despite the fact his team had never practiced it.
“The kids didn’t have time . . . to get nervous,” he said.
Wilson generally has an answer for any situation involving one of his teams. If he doesn’t, he finds out, often devoting his personal time and money to do so. And the payoff?
“I get a real sense of accomplishment out of seeing a team play well on a big stage,” he said.