Don Beckwith has never had to worry about whether he has his players’ attention.

“I would think I would be pretty hard to tune out,” he said.

Anyone who has shared a soccer pitch as the bombastic Maranacook soccer coach finds him hard to ignore. Beckwith’s Maranacook teams are cut from the same cloth — loud, confident, intense and impossible to ignore. The result is a team that plays soccer at full throttle. The style sometimes grates on opponents and their fans, but it is genuine and unmistakable.

As coach, Beckwith set an uncompromising tone, holding his players accountable, often quite publicly, while also demanding that they hold themselves and him accountable, too.

The results are undeniable, a 34-0-2 record and back-to-back state championships. For leading Maranacook to a perfect 18-0 repeat championship season in 2014, and doing it with an inimitable style, Don Beckwith is the Kennebec Journal Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

Before the season, Beckwith had t-shirts made for the team with bull’s eyes on them. The message was clear, the Black Bears were in everybody’s sights, a fact they needed to embrace.

If he thought one of his players was to slow to embrace it, Beckwith would let them know. He doesn’t mince words with his critiques, but he makes it clear “it’s not about them. It’s about the way they play soccer.”

“I do tell them what they need to know and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said. “Fortunately, they have a great deal of respect for me and I have a great deal of love for them.”

Blunt coaches are treading on dangerous ground these days. All it takes is one kid with his feelings hurt or one parent to overhear unflinching criticism to make a team matter an administrative matter. Beckwith said he has no such concerns or complaints.

“The parents here are too good to me, better than they probably should be,” he said.

It helps that the critiques aren’t just a one way street. Beckwith welcomes the players’ opinions of the job he’s doing, too.

“The next day after games, we pick people apart, including me. I’m part of the process,” he said.

Frank discussions require trust, and Beckwith and his players have built that trust with roughly 300 games together over the years. He’s coached most of Maranacook players on travel teams going back to when his son, Chris, now an outstanding junior defender, was 11 years old.

“It’s done over time with a consistent message. It’s not done over one season,” Beckwith said. “I’m very fortunate to have worked with these kids coming up through.”

He acknowledges the message can get a bit stale after while, so he finds different ways to keep the players on their toes.

“Sometimes I’ll bring something up like ‘Do you know what good luck means? Good luck is when the road meets preparation and opportunity. That’s what good luck means,'” Beckwith said. “They know they have to think around me. That’s one way to keep them engaged.”

With all-state caliber talent such as KVAC Player of the Year Kent Mohlar, Chris Beckwith, Kodey Solmitz and Matt DuBois, most of the Black Bears’ games were over by halftime.

Often under such circumstances, it’s difficult for a team to sharpen its skills for when the games get harder, the playoffs. But Beckwith said that wasn’t the case for Maranacook.

“(Winning the state title this year) was a little bit easier,” he said. “I think it was easier because, one, we had experienced it as a team. It was easier as far as dealing with pressure. I’m not saying we were more talented, but it being the second time around, the experience of being there before, helped.”

Not that the Black Bears weren’t tested. Beckwith worried about their semifinal matchup with Waynflete, and although Maranacook emerged victorious by a 4-1 score, the Flyers pushed their hosts like they hadn’t been all year. Then came a tense regional final rematch with Hall-Dale, which the Black Bears didn’t lead until the final five minutes.

The 2-0 state championship victory over Orono ended up being more of a coronation than a coup. Once again, experience proved invaluable, as Beckwith made sure to take a step back and savor the moment with his son and the team.

“To have this success with Chris, it’s been pretty nice to share it,” he said.

“I tell people I’m living the dream. I really am,” added the 52-year-old Beckwith. “This is paradise to me.”

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