By Buddy Wood
Playing high school sports is one of the biggest thrills and learning experiences any teenage athlete can enjoy during his or her lifetime. Wearing the school colors, emblazoned with the school’s mascot into battle against rival schools evokes feelings that are hard to duplicate in any other setting. The excitement generated via the pageantry, competition and camaraderie between teammates is something only a chosen few ever realize. These emotions are brought to life every time old teammates cross paths no matter how long they have been away from the great state of Maine. This leader in charge of a team’s success is remembered as “Coach.” He is known by almost everyone in small towns and communities from Fort Kent to Kittery.
The coach’s dedication through a tireless effort on and off the playing surfaces can never be measured in dollars and cents. Rather it is measured in the future endeavors of every player the coach has on his or her teams. His worth is often measured by success or failures in the athlete’s future lives. The coach has a real and lasting effect on each player’s life. “Coach” has an opportunity to mold character, through teamwork, good sportsmanship, communication, dedication, a positive attitude and direction in a young person’s approach to the most important game of all, the game of life.
I and so many others had the great fortune of having Stu Taylor as their basketball coach at Ellsworth High School from 1960 to 1970. Under “Coach” Taylor’s watch, Eagle teams were highly competitive and very successful year after year. In fact, in 1964 and 1966 the Eagles reached the pinnacle of high school competition by winning state championships. These two teams were unique in that the ’64 team won with tough, tough defense, great rebounding and just enough offense to earn the state crown, while the ’66 team was quick as lightning, fast breaking, could shoot the lights out and was a high-scoring offensive team that simply ran its opponents off the floor as they won the Eagles’ second state title in three seasons.
But even more important than winning, under “Coach’s” watchful eye much more was learned. “Coach” was a true leader, who not only taught skills but instilled a strong work ethic in his players, a willingness to sacrifice personal success for the good of the team, sportsmanship at its highest level, and always giving your best effort regardless of the situation or score on the board.
“Coach” was always a great model for his players and students to follow, something that is sorely missed in some of today’s coaches who have to deal with spoiled athletes who only think of themselves. “Coach” was a major influence in my own life’s roadmap. He got me a summer job, took me fishing while I was a young Eagle. Later he communicated with me while I was in Vietnam, got me into college when I got out of the Army, and even guided me into coaching. Many of his life lessons I tried to instill in my players, as I had the good fortune to coach high school athletes for 30 years. If problems arose or I needed guidance with my own players it was “Coach” Taylor who had the answers that were needed. From the Little League Foxes all the way to the Washington Academy Raiders, “Coach” was always there to guide. The city of Ellsworth was so fortunate to have “Coach” Taylor as the man leading the way; he was a good part of so many youngsters’ growing years, leading by example as a great educator and principal for so many years. As for myself, a personal heartfelt thanks to “Coach” for being such a guiding force in my life. Thanks, “Coach,” you will always be remembered as one special leader in the lives of so many Ellsworth’s youth.
“Coach” Buddy Wood resides in Great Pond. He is a former high school coach and longtime newspaper columnist in the Downeast Coastal Press.