Morse girls basketball coach Jeannine Paradis talks to her team during a timeout of a game earlier this season at Bath Middle School. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

BATH — Jeannine Paradis takes pride in her wealth of basketball knowledge accumulated in her various stops coaching the high school game. She takes pride in rebuilding programs and instilling passion to her players.

Most of all, however, Paradis says she takes pride pushing young female athletes out of their comfort zones while also raising awareness for a lack of women in basketball leadership roles across the state.

“I really try to put an emphasis on breaking barriers and empowering these young female athletes,” said Paradis, 45. “Back when I was at Maranacook there were only 10 female head coaches in the state. There are certainly more now, but there’s still a lot of work to do and I try to focus on it.”

At the beginning of the high school basketball season there were 27 female head coaches in Maine.

That message has resonated with her players, too.

“Coach (Paradis) is one of the strongest female coaches that I have ever met,” said Morse senior Mary LaRochelle. “She is teaching us to be hardworking and persevering on and off of the court. I couldn’t ask for a better coach or better role model.”

Fellow classmate and teammate Brook Kulis agrees.

“I believe that ‘Coach P’ has really done a great job at pushing us to be the absolute best we can be,” Kulis said. “When she decided to take the job as our new coach she took us under her wing when we all really needed someone to believe in us, and has helped us grow into a family because of that.”

Morse girls basketball coach Jeannine Paradis talks to her players during a game from the 2019-20 season at Bath Middle School. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

Paradis, a Biddeford resident, became the girls basketball coach at Morse prior to the 2019-20 season. She inherited a struggling program that didn’t win a game that previous season. The losing streak stretched to 46 games, before the Shipbuilders beat Lincoln Academy on Feb. 15.

Paradis previously coached at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington (2001-09) and then at Maranacook in Readfield. She coached the Black Bears for eight seasons, taking them to the Class C state final in 2015.

When the position at Morse opened after the 2019 season, Paradis jumped at the opportunity to get back into the coaching game.

“It was good timing for a number of reasons, I had just moved back to southern Maine and was ready to coach again,” said Paradis. “It was also a chance for me to get back and work with Coach (Thomas) Maines again. It was important to me to continue that close bond we had and close out his career working side by side.”

Furthermore, the challenge of rebuilding a program was intriguing.

“I would rather come into a program and start from the ground up than come into a team that has recent success. It’s just something that fits me better as a coach” said Paradis. “I’ve gotten used to the drive by now, it’s just part of my day at this point.”

Added LaRochelle: “(Paradis) came into her position as a varsity coach with a bunch of girls who dreaded the winter season because of our recent seasons. She made us actually excited to play, and made us play better as individuals, and as a team.”

Morse athletic director Nathan Priest said Paradis was an easy hire.

“We had coach (Tom) Maines at the time coaching our boys team, and I knew she had a good relationship with him from their experience coaching together at Madison in the past,” said Priest. “We knew that she would bring a lot of the same ideas and philosophies that he had in place.

“I saw what she did at Mt. Blue and Maranacook and liked the vision she had in rebuilding programs. We are very lucky and feel fortunate to have coach Paradis here at Morse.”

Paradis got to know Maines when she was a student at the University of Maine at Farmington more than 25 years ago.

“I remember Dick Meader, who was a professor of mine at the time, recommended me to interview with Maines for an opening as a junior varsity coach in Madison,” said Paradis. “I was the only female interviewing, but Maines gave me the job anyways because he saw the potential I had. He didn’t care that I was a female.”

Paradis eventually worked her way up to becoming a head coach at Mt. Blue in 2002 after graduating from UMF.

“I think it all started with having a great foundation with Maines, learning the ropes with him and watching him lead a successful program,” said Paradis. “He really gave me a great foundation when I was starting out.”

Paradis turned the Cougars around in just two seasons, going 13-5 in her second season at the helm.

Jeannine Paradis watches a shot go up during a 2019 game against Leavitt at Bath Middle School. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

While the Shipbuilders are improving, Paradis recalled some of the challenges she faced during her first year at Morse.

“I think the biggest challenge was trying to build up the girls’ confidence with getting them to do new things and finding success with it,” she said. “We worked on different things in the game, not being afraid to fail, and learning that practice is a safe and great place to attempt things.”

The hard work finally paid off for the Shipbuilders on Feb. 15, when they earned their first win since January 2018, a 52-45 win over Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.

“We had been taking a step forward in each game this season, and it all came together,” said Paradis. “It was an exciting moment for the team, but there’s still work to be done for us.

“I continue to evolve as a coach and learn along the way. You can’t coach each kid the same way all the time, and they’ve helped me see that,” said Paradis. I’ve learned to adapt yet still have the same expectations in each situation I’ve been in.”

Paradis has a strong resume on the court, but is hoping her players remember the messages she tries to teach them off the court, as well as on.

“I just want to be a strong female role model who can be passionate about what she believes in, going 100% the whole time, and never giving up,” said Paradis.

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