Rick Coughlin retired from teaching middle school students and coaching boys high school soccer at Richmond nearly 10 years ago, but he hasn’t gone away.

He still coaches middle school boys basketball and is a substitute teacher at the high school throughout the year.

“I sub quite often,” Coughlin said. “It keeps me involved with the kids. They see me more now than when I was teaching.”

Coughlin has continued to coach varsity softball, having just completed his 28th season. And what a season it was. A year after winning the Class D state championship and graduating nine players, the Bobcats bounced back to finish 17-0 and repeat as state champions. They accomplished this feat without a senior on the roster and five freshmen in the starting lineup.

For his efforts, Coughlin has been named Kennebec Journal Softball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Gardiner’s Ginger Shaw, Cony’s Rocky Gaslin and Hall-Dale’s Christen Lachapelle.

Coughlin grew up in Richmond where he played three sports and graduated from the high school in 1963. He coached boys soccer for 25 years, winning three state titles, and the field at the school is named in his honor. He’s enjoyed even more success at softball, winning six titles, five of those in the past 11 years.

“I was just gifted with some good talent and I instituted the small ball because we always had quick kids.”

Those who play for Coughlin have to know how to bunt and run the bases. Sounds simple, but there was a lot of teaching that went on this year with a new crop of players coming in.

“In middle school, they very seldom bunt,” Coughlin said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. The freshmen just took hold of it and played very, very well and the upperclassmen helped immensely.”

Coughlin did plenty of teaching this year and accepted the fact many of his players lacked varsity experience.

“You have to almost use kids gloves with them,” he said. “You don’t want to turn them off, but you want them to play hard. You’ve got to teach the freshmen what to do in certain situations and you’ve got to go over and over it.”

The Bobcats breezed through the regular season with just one close game, but they faced an experienced and unbeaten team in Limestone in the state title game and were not favored to win.

“He told us we’re the underdogs,” freshman pitcher Meranda Martin said. “And to just go out there and have fun. He said ‘if you play your game, we’ll be OK,'”

The Bobcats opened the championship game with a bunt and stolen base and never looked back in posting an 11-5 victory. Coughlin is already looking forward to next year.

“Everyone’s going to be looking at them next year and they’ll have to play better,” he said.

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