AUGUSTA — Don Beckwith told his team that the first week of practice would be tough. Thus far, it’s lived up to that billing.

In his tenure at Maranacook, Beckwith was known for his high-intensity conditioning workouts. Now at Cony, his new players are learning firsthand what playing for Beckwith entails.

“He told us, ‘Welcome to hell week,’ and he wasn’t joking,” Yousif Ibrahim, a Cony senior attacking midfielder, said of his team’s new head coach. “He’s putting us to work. It’s intense.”

From workouts to style of play, Cony is dealing with some big changes under its new head coach as the first week of practices continues. The adjustments, players say, that will pay off as the program looks to take the next step.

It might seem hard to imagine Maine high school soccer without Beckwith roaming the touchline at Maranacook. Over the course of his 20 years in Readfield, Beckwith’s Black Bears developed into one of the state’s top powers, winning Class C state championships in 2013, 2014 and 2017.

After more than two decades, though, Beckwith felt it was time for a change. Wanting to ply his trade in a new environment, he made the difficult decision in May to swap Maranacook’s black and gold for Cony’s red and white.


“I just thought I needed change,” Beckwith said. “I felt like I needed that to see how good I was. It was hard to leave — a lot harder than people realize — but it just felt like same-old, same-old after I’d been there for so long. It was time for something new.”

It’s something new for Cony, too. At Maranacook, Beckwith’s teams used defense as their calling card en route to their three state championships. This year’s Cony team, Beckwith says, has the ability to put the ball in the net but has work to do at the defensive end.

Improving on that end of the pitch means slightly different roles for the Rams this year. Ibrahim, who played more as an attacker last year, is in more of a true midfield position this season. Carter Fleischer, a striker, is playing a bit further back than he did under former head coach Marcio Biasuz.

“Our last coach wanted the strikers to stay up top just in case there was a quick break or a counterattack,” Fleischer said. “(Coach Beckwith) wants the strikers up and down the field with the defense and the midfield, so it’s a bit tough to get used to, but I’ll get used to it.”

New Cony boys soccer coach Don Beckwith kicks a ball to his players during practice Wednesday in Augusta. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s certainly a learning curve to take on a new shape under a new coach, but the Rams say they appreciate the changes. Ibrahim enjoys playing his newer, more central role in the midfield, and Fleisher feels he’s at his best when pushed to his limit physically.

It all starts, of course, with that last piece. Beckwith’s practices are intense with the longtime coach placing just as much emphasis on conditioning as on soccer tactics and skills. Players run, they jump, and they even piggyback — “carrying your teammate” is a key piece of Beckwith’s philosophy.


“We do the same thing I did at Maranacook, which is, I push them,” Beckwith said. “We do a lot of (conditioning); during the first hour and 15 or 20 minutes, we don’t even touch the ball. They’re kind of worn out after, but they enjoy it, and most of them are pretty receptive to it.”

It’s his way of molding a Cony team that’s already shown promise in recent seasons. Finishing sixth in the final Class B North Heal point standings in 2021 and seventh in 2022, the Rams enter the season having finished in the top half of their region in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003 and 2004.

This year’s team already has bigger goals than that. The roster of 30, Ibrahim said, has a good mix of experience and youth to it, and with their new coach leading the way, Fleischer said this Cony squad can go as far as the program’s ever gone.

“One-hundred percent effort all the time, that’s what he wants out of us, and that’s what we give him,” Fleischer said. “He’s tough, but he’s a great coach, and I think he’s going to make us into a great team. I think he’s going to take us to the finals.”

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