|The Southern Maine Activities Association has|
honored Deb Lebel, Windham High varsity
girls' soccer coach, left, and Ben Schulz, WHS
boys' varsity soccer coach as 'Coach of the
Year' for their respective sports.
Windham High girls’ varsity soccer coach Deb Lebel and boys’ varsity soccer coach Ben Schulz and their teams each enjoyed amazing seasons. The girls won their third state title since 2013, becoming 2021 Class A champions. The boys made it all the way to the regional final and finished their season 15-2. As a result, the Southern Maine Activities Association honored Lebel and Schulz as SMAA 2021 Coach of the Year for their sports.
Coach of the Year is voted on by coaches within the SMAA league of 17 member schools. It holds significance because the votes are coming from a coach’s peers and really reflect not only a solid body of work, but personal and team character.
RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond said both teams represented Windham in a classy manner.
“Deb is vested in our players, first and foremost, as people and students, and the girls feel that each and every day,” said Windham girls’ soccer assistant coach Chris Aube. “She teaches these young ladies how to be successful in life and that translates to the soccer field.”
Lebel said she is humbled to be named SMAA Coach of the Year.
“Many coaches in the SMAA are extremely knowledgeable about the game ... so it’s nice to be respected by such a great group of people,” said Lebel.
Lebel got into coaching because she loved competing and benefited from being a part of sports. She was inspired by memorable high school coaches that pushed her but made it fun. After getting her Master’s in Sports Psychology, coaching was a way to take what she’d learned and incorporate it into creating successful teams.
A biology teacher at Windham High School, Lebel enjoys coaching because it’s nice for her to make a connection with the students outside the classroom.
She feels like some of her students perform better in the classroom for her when they find out she coaches. She’s suddenly earned respect because they share a similar passion. Lebel said it’s important to have female role models for female athletes.
“She’s competitive and likes to win and that’s something you want in every coach that you have is competitiveness,” said senior Sarah Talon. “She loves what she does ... and knows what it takes.”
This fall was a coach’s dream for Lebel. It’s rare to go 19-0 and win a state championship. She said the team’s chemistry was top notch and as a coach she had a strong supporting cast who help her each fall.
Talon said Lebel is awesome to have as a coach.
Windham High assistant varsity boys’ soccer coach and junior varsity boys’ soccer coach Mitch Hodge said it was motivating to work with Schulz, who has nothing but high hopes and desires for the program.
Sports has always played an important part of Schulz’s life, and he believes there are valuable life lessons that can be learned from athletics and being part of a team. He’s honored RSU 14 allows him to teach those lessons to the boys.
“It is always a proud moment for a coach to be recognized by his peers,” said Schulz. “There are so many deserving choices especially this year that to win it meant a lot.”
Windham senior Cole Washburn said Schulz pushed them to be great this season. He added if the team did not have a coach like Schulz or the other assistant coaches, they wouldn’t have been able to make it as far as they did.
It was exciting for Schulz to be a part of Windham’s successful soccer season. The community support along the way was amazing and he said he thought they put the boys’ soccer program on the map again.
When it came to the success of the season, Schulz said the efforts of the coaching staff were focused on putting the boys in a position to succeed, but ultimately it always comes down to the players. It was their hard work and commitment to the team and each other that propelled them forward.
For Schulz, the efforts made by his team on and off the field and the memories they have made for the rest of their lives validates his work.
“He always believes in his players, and wants nothing but success for them,” That’s what makes him successful,” said Hodge. <