Duncan Persons, UMA’s Social Media & Student Communications Specialist, recently caught up with UMA student and Winslow Boy’s Baseball Coach, Beth LaFountain. Beth was named the Winslow coach in March 2022 and has been viewed as a trailblazer in the world of coaching here in the state of Maine. Find Duncan and Beth’s interview transcript below.
Tell me about your experience at UMA. Why did you decide to enroll, and why did you pick your major?
I originally started at University of Maine at Orono, and we [my family] moved closer to central Maine, so I transferred to UMA. I liked the fact that we could have a schedule that worked around work schedules. I have three kids, so I have a lot of responsibilities and it was nice to go to a school that caters to non-traditional students.
Why did you want to finish your degree? Why go back to school?
I had some life changes, and now that my kids are old enough where my youngest is in school full time, I finally had the opportunity to go back and finish my degree.
Why did you choose Business Administration as your major?
I love business, I’ve always loved the challenge of turning no money into a lot. I’ve really found a love for doing stuff like this [coaching] with youth programs or sports teams, and trying to really treat the team and program itself like a business. Reinvesting in yourself, and of course, our profit would be winning and getting good experience for the athletes. But I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of trying to turn something out of nothing.
What are some classes that you’ve taken so far that you would recommend to another student, or an experience that has positively impacted you?
Honestly, I think I’m the only person who would ever say this but I really liked Collective Bargaining.
I took that with Brenda McAleer and that was a lot of fun because we are all our own walking billboards, and it was interesting; a lot of the topics she touched upon. Of course her direction was more business [oriented], but for me, I turn everything into sports. So everything I learned in her class helped me a lot.
How would you describe your relationships with your professors?
Right now, I have Professor Hoop who teaches sociology, and she is the best. She reaches out through Zoom; extremely accommodating and easy to talk to. Quite honestly, I think she probably mirrors exactly what UMA tries to do and accomplish.
How did you become a boy’s baseball coach at Winslow High School?
So I started playing when I was in fourth grade, and I started pitching in junior high. For me, I fell in love with the mechanics and technical parts. Of course, the strategy part came later but I really liked dissecting mechanics.
I graduated [high school] in 2004, and we won a state championship. Then in 2005, people started reaching out to see if I could start working with their daughters and teach them how to pitch. So that’s when it really started taking off, is when I started coaching softball. That way, I could apply all my favorite parts to it.
Do you miss playing baseball, or do you like coaching more?
I actually don’t miss playing, I think I like coaching better—it’s so much fun. I had my time, and now it’s fun to try to create an experience like that for another group of kids. It’s very rewarding, and luckily I have the best group this year. They’re seriously an awesome group.
What’s your biggest goal for coaching? What were your intentions coming into your role?
I think that having an impact on people through sports was definitely something I set out to accomplish. Most of all, I think when you reinvest in the youth league and get to impact those younger athletes and follow them through, I think winning is a natural result….and I hate to lose (audible laughter).
What is the key to balancing work and class?
I have a lot of help. The fact that my kids are in school full time, that’s when I can get my homework done and plan for practices. A lot of the time, if I’m not here [coaching], I’m at their practice for Youth League. It’s actually a lot more manageable than people realize. My schedule aligns with theirs, so I try to take advantage of the time when they’re in school.
I’ve really found a love for doing stuff like [coaching] with youth programs or sports teams, and trying to really treat the team and program itself like a business. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of trying to turn something out of nothing.
What advice would you give to someone who’s in a similar position as you?
Drink a lot of coffee, and lower your bar of expectations…Manage your expectations, be realistic of where you’re at, and try to pace yourself.
Is there a specific faculty/staff member that has made a positive impact on you at UMA?
It was a very minimal interaction with this guy, but Tom Giordano. He actually was the only professor to sit me down and ask “What do you want to do?” because the class I was taking wasn’t a good fit for my personality. He felt like I was taking the class because it was something I thought I should do, but he was the first person ever to sit me down and ask what I wanted, and try to realign my goals with my passions in life. I think it was probably the only time a professor cared enough to ask and not just push me through his course and get onto the next round of students. I think that shows the quality of professors at UMA because they really care about the individual and not just the success rate of their course.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned inside or outside of the classroom since being a full time student at UMA?
To not be afraid of going against the flow and not be afraid to follow your passion and make it work. UMA has been great in the sense that I have 3 kids and it’s difficult to go back to school, but they make it possible for people to accomplish that goal. Obviously, I don’t listen to the people who say “girls shouldn’t coach baseball.”
I read an article on centralmaine.com about how people assume you’re a girl’s softball coach instead of a boy’s baseball coach. Do you get that a lot?
From people I know, too; some of those are my friends. Some of my friends are not surprised at all, but a few people that I know well, they try to correct me. It’s really funny to me that it’s more believable to them that there’s a girl’s baseball team they’ve never heard of than the fact that I took over as the head coach on the team I was the assistant [coach] of last year (laughs loudly).
It’s totally innocent, it’s loose conversation. It’s just their innocent thoughts. It’s not something I take offense to, honestly.
My grandfather was the coach of this team for 10 or 11 years, way back in the day. He’s 95 now so when I told them I was going to do this, I was wondering what his reaction would be…and he loved it! I have way more support than I actually expected.
What has been the biggest challenge since being enrolled at UMA?
Balancing my responsibilities has been the most difficult, for sure. This is rebuilding a program. I want to turn this around, so that takes time and effort. I need to be careful that I don’t neglect one thing for another. Whatever I do, I want to do well, and you can’t do everything well.
I know that’s a weakness of mine; taking on too many things. I just can’t do it all at the same time. And I wanna help, and I know I can do it. But one thing at a time.