SOUTH CHINA — Doran Stout’s Erskine Academy office still looks like a typical, though slightly larger than most, athletic director’s office. An uninformed visitor could perhaps sense another school year is winding down, but have no inkling that Stout’s retirement after 22 years as the school’s athletic director is near.

“Look around,” he said, nodding inside the office that is still filled with equipment, uniforms, paperwork and cardboard boxes that haven’t been slid off their shelf in months, maybe years. “I don’t even know where to start in here. I don’t know what I’m going to do with some of this stuff. Those drawers over there, I have no idea what I’ve tucked in there over the years.”

Stout just turned 60. After he helps his successor, Mount View athletic director Chuck Karter, get settled in, he’s going to hunt, fish, golf, spend time with his three grandchildren, and visit a son who works as a guide at Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

“I’m not going to backpack across Europe. I don’t plan on climbing Mt. Everest,” he said. “I’m going to open a new chapter in my life and live it.”

In earlier chapters, Stout was a student at Gardiner High School, where he played basketball and tennis for Art Warren and football for former Cony assistant and current Mt. Ararat coach O’Neil LaPlante.

It was Warren, who died in 2013, who had the greatest influence on him.

“He was my mentor, my role model in high school,” he said.

“And trust me, I was not easy,” he added. “Oh, he and I banged heads on a dozen occasions. I never won, I can tell you that.”

He said he learned about accountability under Warren, who became a close friend later in life. It’s at the core of his athletic philosophy, which he said he learned from and developed from his coaches.

“I always want our coaches to be to our athletes as my coaches were to me,” he said.

He was a coach and English teacher at Erskine for 14 years before becoming the full-time athletic director. He coached varsity baseball, leading the Eagles to the Class C state final in his first year, 1984, and coached varsity and JV basketball for nine years.

He started Erskine’s cross country program in the mid-1980s and the track and field program in 1988. He still displays a faded photo of the 1992 girls track team that won the school’s first state title to remind him of his favorite coaching achievement.

Seeing Erskine athletics through growth, struggles

Along with his wife of 35 years, Halda, who works down the hall as Alumni Events Coordinator, Stout saw Erskine’s enrollment explode from 280 when he started as AD to over 700 at one point back to about 550 now. Sports offerings grew from soccer in the fall to include field hockey and cross country. Wrestling, swimming and indoor track joined basketball in the winter. Tennis, track and field and most recently lacrosse were added to baseball and softball in the spring.

“As you get bigger, you’ve got to offer more for the kids,” he said. “When you start those programs, you just don’t know (whether they will last). You know you’ve got enough kids to start, but you don’t know, if things don’t go well, are kids going to continue to come out and so forth. Fortunately, as we started these programs, we were able to find some really good coaches to keep attracting kids.”

Still, many of the programs struggled when Erskine, with enrollment teetering between Class A and Class B eligibility numbers, made a couple of brief forays into Class A in most sports. It returned to Class B in 2013 (basketball bounced back to Class A with the recent expansion to five classes).

“Thank God, the kids hung with it. They didn’t like it, but they accepted it as it was. They worked harder,” Stout said. “I think our programs actually got better the years that we were in ‘A.’ But we just weren’t good enough to compete with the schools of 1,000 (students) or better night in and night out,” he said. “We just knew we had to ride out the storm until we got back to where we knew we belonged.”

Since getting back there, Erskine made respectable tournament runs in a number of sports and last fall cheered its boys soccer team, a No. 10 seed, during an unlikely run to the program’s first state championship game.

Phil Hubbard, the coach, is one of Erskine’s longest-tenured coaches with 13 years at the helm, and Stout uses him as an example of why coaching continuity and a fairly steady flow of good, committed athletes has had more to do with Erskine’s success than he has.

“I think people enjoy coaching here for the most part. We have a very attentive group of kids who I think play for the right reasons. They understand what the standards are in terms of being an athlete and the coaches are doing the best they can to help them succeed and let the coach do his job. Our parents by and large buy into that philosophy. We have bumps in the road, but we straighten them out.”

Fairness, fun and the future

Unlike many coaches and athletic directors leaving the high school ranks, Stout doesn’t list parents near the top of his list of what he’s seen change for the worse in high school athletics. He does think the opportunities to teach some of life’s harder lessons through athletics are shrinking.

“When they put their cap and gown on the last day that we’re here, what do we want them to leave with?” he said. “Maybe it’s that they’ve learned how to deal with things that don’t go their way. I hate to use the ‘F’ word, but you know what? Sometimes, it isn’t fair.”

Stout brings up another ‘F’ word, fun, to explain why Erskine has been fortunate to have students who are still enthusiastic about sports while some schools are struggling to keep teams afloat,

“They must have fun, because as we well know in 2016, if they’re not having fun, they’re not coming back,” he said.

He is no fan of social media and its impact on all aspects of life, including high school athletics. And if you’ve ever texted him and are still awaiting a reply, don’t hold your breath.

“I have 196 unread text messages which I have no intention of replying to because they’re just going to text me again,” Stout said.

Old school as he may seem, Stout said he still enjoys watching kids grow and learn. Coming back for a game will be difficult for some time, he acknowledged, and he may try substitute teaching to fill that void. But he knows he should step out of the daily grind.

“The 14 or 15-hour days. Quite frankly, that’s what got my mind going in this direction. I don’t mind being old. I don’t like feeling old. And the last couple of winters, by the time January rolled around and I’m right in the throes of the season, I’ve gotten tired.”

He hopes to feel refreshed for what will remain his busiest time of year, the state basketball tournament. He will continue to oversee the Northern and Southern Maine tournaments at the Augusta Civic Center, a post he’s held since 2013.

“This sounds very selfish, but I’d like to have a period of time, who knows, two months, three months, six months, where there are really no demands, where I don’t have to be anywhere. where I can wake up in the morning and say ‘Okay, what am I going to do today?’ he said. “I think that would be very cool.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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