BAR HARBOR — Playing at Mount Desert Island High School taught Max Mason a lot about soccer. Working for a professional sports franchise taught him a lot about player development.
As a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst about three years ago, Mason, a 2013 MDI graduate, received an internship working for Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. It was a rewarding experience for Mason, who stayed with the job even after he graduated in May 2017.
After the 2017 season ended, though, Mason decided it was time to come back home to the island. He took a job working as an ed tech at Mount Desert Elementary School, but, wanting to stay in the world of sports, he also decided to look into the high school junior varsity boys soccer coaching vacancy.
“I played soccer at MDI, and I thought I would be a good candidate to fill that position,” Mason said. “It just seemed like a great chance to help those kids get better and apply what I’d learned.”
The team produced what Mason called a “very successful” season in 2018.
“I didn’t really know what expectations to set, but I can say this: Whatever expectations I had, these guys exceeded them,” he said. “Our players handled challenges very maturely and showed great development throughout the season.”
Unlike most teams, the MDI boys practice together as varsity and JV squads throughout the season. That created a bond between the teams that became more and more important as the year unfolded.
With the varsity team dealing with a number of injuries throughout the season, the JV squad also got the chance to give its team members playing time at the varsity level. Players such as Ieuan Howell and Ben Hulbert were among players to produce strong performances for the Trojans, who were able to maintain continuity and earn a handful of late-season wins at the varsity level thanks in part to their JV products.
“You want to see those guys get varsity experience because it’s good for them and tests out how we’ve prepared them at the JV level,” Mason said. “With our team’s depth, we could send pretty much any players up to varsity as needed while still fielding a strong team of our own.”
Mason didn’t say the team’s record — he didn’t keep track — but he did take away plenty of great experiences from the season. Between yoga at halftime during a 10-1 win against Washington Academy, stopping to get potatoes for every player in Caribou and Ultimate Frisbee games after practices, the team’s 2018 campaign was a memorable one.
“I can’t be thankful enough to have had this opportunity,” Mason said. “It was a great thing for me, and the boys can all be really proud of how they did. They’re going to make good varsity players down the line.”
Team members were Whit Chaplin, Ieuan Howell, Spencer Dominy, Seth Heard, Julien Walls, Dakota Dobson, Zack Zaman, Cody Olson, Finn Baker, Quentin Pileggi, Matt Wheeler, Kilean Paige, Cedar Ellis, Max Larose, Ben Lipski, Deangelo Reid, Henning Reinholdt, Sam Schleif, Finn Seyffer and Sirawat Wongluengon.