Foxcroft Academy senior Brooks Law is interested in studying journalism in college next year and has been writing articles for the FA website throughout this year. For this assignment, he wanted to feature Foxcroft Academy Athletic Director Tim Smith and several of the school’s many successful coaches. He chose to focus on the two coaches he’s played for all four years–wrestling coach Luis Ayala and baseball coach Mark Chevalier–and football coach Danny White, track coach Rob Weber, field hockey coach Stephanie Smith, and girls’ basketball coach Blake Smith.
Since the arrival of Foxcroft Academy’s newest athletic director–Tim Smith–in 2003, Foxcroft athletics have seen great accomplishments. Though it is often the athletes who receive most of the credit for a team’s success, the carefully hand-picked batch of coaches here at FA are a huge part of both athletic and academic achievements. These coaches have been selected by Smith, who joined the Pony Herd back in 2003. Smith is a Foxcroft Academy alum who played football and basketball and ran track in the spring for the Ponies. After graduating in 1987, he went on to earn his degree in Physical Education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Thereafter, he became the Director of Recreational Sports at the University of Southern Maine, where he remained for the next six years. Soon Smith was named Assistant Director of Athletics also at the University of Southern Maine. In 2003, he returned to Dover-Foxcroft, where he found his current job as Foxcroft Academy’s athletic director and assistant head of school. The Ponies have won five state sportsmanship awards in the past three years alone and have captured 11 of their 21 state titles during Smith’s tenure.
In this article I would like to feature six coaches who were hired by Mr. Smith and have seen great success at Foxcroft Academy. The first is a person who has been more than just a coach to me–head soccer and wrestling coach Luis Ayala. Coach Ayala has coached me in wrestling for nine years (4th-12th grade) and has been a mentor for me throughout high school. He has shown me and countless other athletes what it means to be a Foxcroft Academy Pony.
Ayala went to Parkview High school in Sterling, Virginia, where he graduated in 1991. At Parkview, he wrestled and played football and soccer. After graduating high school, Coach Ayala joined the United States Army as a Combat Medic and was able to receive his EMT license. Four years after joining the Army, he then went on to earn his Nursing Degree at Tallahassee College.
In 1998, Ayala began his long-term coaching (soccer) and teaching career with Foxcroft Academy. Two years later, he started coaching the FA wrestling team. In 2004 and 2005, Ayala—whose team was anchored by the phenomenal Josh Pelletier, who later joined the coaching staff—led the wrestling team to two consecutive state titles. After coaching and teaching at FA for several years, Ayala had to stop after the 2007 school year, when he changed jobs and instead coached at Sedomocha Middle School for three years. All three years, they made it to the championship game, finishing with a record of 30-5-1. In 2010 Ayala returned to coach the wrestling team, and in 2012 he returned to the FA classroom as an ESL teacher (now a Health and Physical Education teacher) and took over as head coach of the varsity soccer team. Ayala has led the soccer team to the playoffs all three years, and in 2013 he and the FA wrestling team made school history by capturing their third consecutive state title.
Coach Ayala received the Maine Coach of the Year award for wrestling in 2004 and 2013–while for soccer he was named Conference Coach of the Year this past fall. Ayala is very grateful for receiving these awards, but he is even more grateful for having had outstanding coaches to be influenced by when growing up. “I coach because I love these sports and the life lessons that they teach,” he said. “I coach because I want to give my players the same thing I received from the coaches I had. These coaches are people that I still look up to because they gave so much of themselves to young individuals. I only hope that I have done the same for my players.”
Another coach here at FA who has impacted my life a great deal for the better is the current varsity baseball head coach, Mark Chevalier. He has been one of my most significant mentors throughout my four high school years. Coach Chevalier is able to keep off-the-field situations and on-the-field situations separated, while at the same time giving me advice and support for both endeavors.
After playing baseball, basketball, soccer, and golf at Souhegan High School in Amherst, NH, Chevalier went on to graduate from Bowdoin College, where he played baseball, in 2001. In 2009, he was hired as an English teacher at Foxcroft Academy, later becoming the Academy’s Director of Communications in 2011. His first year working at FA, he was the JV baseball coach and the varsity assistant coach. Promoted to varsity head coach the following season, he is now approaching his fifth season and once again has a promising squad.
Though Chevalier’s time as head coach has been brief, his team’s success has been rather extensive. After his first season, and an impressive 16-0 regular-season record, Coach Chevalier received the PVC Coach of the Year award. He was able to propel a very young team that had graduated 11 players the previous year to the Eastern Maine Title Game. “I was happy to receive the award because I know that it typically goes to the coach of the team that has exceeded expectations the most,” he said. “And that happened because our young team bought into our system and gave us everything they had that year. It was also special because the first thing I did when I got the varsity job was bring in my younger brother Jamie as an assistant, and there’s no way we would have gone undefeated without his intensity and knowledge.” Although Jamie only assisted for one year, Chevalier credits his brother for helping build a solid foundation for all of his subsequent teams. A year later—2012—Chevalier brought his team to the state championship game, defeating two-time defending state champs Waterville 10-2 in the Eastern Maine Title Game. In all, the varsity baseball teams have compiled a regular-season record of 51-13 since Chevalier took over in 2011.
One of the many excellent coaches that Tim Smith managed to hire for Foxcroft Academy was Danny White–a Foxcroft Academy alum who graduated the same year that Tim Smith began working at FA (2003) and became the new head coach of the football team in 2009.
Coach White’s career as a student-athlete here at FA is one to be looked upon with great pride. A three-sport standout in football, basketball, and baseball, White began to excel very quickly. Right out of the gate he was able to lock down a starting position on varsity for the baseball team, where he played second base and earned the leadoff spot in the lineup. White was named second team all-conference as a result of his very impressive freshman season.
Sophomore year White was able to find a varsity position at running back and defensive back on the football team, where he was selected as second team all-conference. Later his sophomore year when basketball season came, White found himself not only starting on varsity but also being voted one of the team’s captains–an extraordinary feat for an underclassman. Moving into warmer weather and baseball, he remained a starter at second base and continued to lead off, until about halfway through the season when he was moved shortstop–where he remained for the rest of his career. Once again, he was able to grab second team all-conference. Junior year saw even more success for White, as he was named first team all-conference for all three sports. Also during his junior year, the baseball team made it to the state championship game, where they came up just short against Maranacook.
His senior year, White managed to record one of the most impressive years for a three-sport standout that Foxcroft Academy has ever seen. In football, he rushed for over 1,000 yards on an unbelievable 91 carries while scoring 17 touchdowns. On defense he recorded 6 interceptions. His team went 11-1, with their only loss to Boothbay in the state championship game. He picked up a captain position that year and went on to earn first team all-conference while being named LTC Player of the Year and earning a spot in the Lobster Bowl. In basketball, he was again chosen for first team all-conference as well as all-state. His team went 18-2 and lost to Erskine in the Eastern Maine semifinals. White closed his spectacular basketball career by recording 969 varsity points, being chosen to play in the McDonald’s Senior All-Star Game, and capturing the title of Big East Player of the Year. Again earning first team all-conference in baseball, he led his team to the Eastern Maine finals, where they were edged by Bucksport.
Fast forward nine years to 2012, and Coach White found himself being inducted into the Foxcroft Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. This was a great achievement for White for several reasons. At the time of being inducted, he was the head coach of the football team and would end up leading them to a state title that season. His family members were also among the inductees, which made the whole experience more special. His uncle, David Anderson, was inducted into the first hall of fame class in 2011, while in 2012 White shared the spotlight with another uncle, Bob White. Then his grandfather, Jack Anderson, was added to the Hall of Fame this past fall. “To be a part of that and to share that experience with my family means a whole lot,” he said.
Coach White’s success did not end there. He was named Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 and again in 2014. These were huge accomplishments that Dan accepted with humility. “The award is very nice, mostly due to the fact that it is voted upon by the coaches in the league to which I belong, so to be respected by my peers, if you will, is a great honor,” he said.
Another standout athlete who came through FA is Stephanie Smith, Foxcroft Academy’s current field hockey coach. Smith excelled in field hockey, basketball, and softball during her time at FA. Her success was rewarded when she was inducted into the Foxcroft Academy Athletic Hall of Fame in the fall of 2011.
After graduating high school in 1988, Smith went on to play all three sports at the collegiate level for Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. In field hockey, she was named to the NEWMAC All-Conference first team. In softball, she was named NEWMAC second team. Because she excelled at three sports in college (a very rare feat), Wheaton presented Smith with the Athlete of the Year award during her senior year.
In 2012, Smith received the opportunity of a lifetime–an opportunity to give back to the program that she once played for. She got a phone call from Tim Smith, who asked if she would be able to take over the field hockey program while the current head coach, the legendary Gene Philpot, took a leave of absence. An eager Smith was ready to take on the challenge, saying, “This was a chance for me to give back after all she did for me and for all the many others that were fortunate enough to be coached by her.” After being coached by Coach Philpot and being exposed to what it meant to be a great coach, Smith referred to her as by far the best coach she has had.
Following in Coach Philpot’s shoes is still to this day a great honor for Coach Smith, who has compiled a 45-5-1 record in her three years on the bench. Having been a stellar field hockey player all the way up to the collegiate level as well as having Philpot’s mark left on her, Smith knew what it would take to succeed. In 2012, her first year as head coach, she led the team to the Eastern Maine title game. The next season, after graduating most of her starters, Smith led the Ponies to a state title. This past fall the field hockey team came up just short of making it to the Eastern Maine game as they were edged by Dexter in the semifinals. This year, however, Smith received the PVC Coach of the Year award. “All I could think was maybe I have placed a pinky toe in Coach Philpot’s shoes,” said Smith when expressing what she felt after receiving this award. “Foxcroft Academy has certainly prepared me for the trials and tribulations that life has to offer. I can only hope I can pass some wisdom I have gained from my experiences to the young student-athletes today.”
Stephanie’s husband–Blake Smith–is the girls’ varsity basketball head coach here at FA. On top of that, Blake also attended Foxcroft Academy, where he was in the same class as his best friend, current Athletic Director Tim Smith. Blake and Stephanie first started dating during the February of 1985, and now they both coach varsity sports at their alma mater. Though during their respective seasons (fall and winter) coaching tends to consume much of their free time, the Smiths are able to be very understanding of that. They usually talk extensively about certain practices or their games and are able to give each other tips. Blake sees Stephanie’s success in sports as a huge benefit to him, noting: “I am very lucky in more ways than I can count to be married to Stephanie. She is an incredible athlete and coach…and she can sometimes give me a fresh perspective.”
Blake takes great pride in having graduated from Foxcroft Academy. “I loved going to school here, and I would do anything for FA,” he said. “I truly bleed maroon. I loved every aspect of my high school years at FA and couldn’t imagine anything else. FA blessed me with the love of my life in Stephanie and has provided my sons (Kaleb ’13 and Drew ’15) with great opportunities.” Opportunities were definitely given to both sons–Kaleb currently plays baseball in his second year at Norwich University while Drew, who is a member of the varsity basketball and baseball teams, plans on attending the University of Northwestern Ohio next fall.
Blake played football, basketball, and baseball while at Foxcroft. His freshman year, the football team went undefeated right through the state championship—becoming one of the best football teams to ever go through FA. Having never played football until freshman year, the young Blake Smith didn’t start varsity until his sophomore season, when started at fullback and defensive end. After taking his junior year off to do some farming, Smith started at tailback, defensive end, and punter his senior year.
Blake started on the varsity basketball team his sophomore, junior, and senior years—where his junior year he was the only junior to start, among four other seniors. That year he played alongside legendary scholar-athlete, Dean Smith, and they made it to the semifinals of the tournament—falling just short to Calais, who went on to win the tourney, in double overtime. His senior year, he was named captain and was the team’s leading scorer.
In baseball, Smith spent most his time behind the plate, starting on varsity as a sophomore, junior, and senior (captain). Fortunately enough, Coach Smith was exposed to a trio of tremendous baseball coaches—Dave Clement, Ed Hackett, and Roger Davis—whom he looked up to as great mentors. Hackett was part of the UMO team that played in the College World Series, while Smith mentioned that Clement was one of the greatest coaches he’s ever had.
Although Robert Weber did not attend Foxcroft Academy as a student, he has nonetheless brought the Academy great success through teaching and coaching. Weber teaches in the science department here at FA, and he coaches both indoor and outdoor track. In 2006 Weber began teaching and was asked by Tim Smith to coach the track team. After refusing the first offer and the next year’s offer, the third time was the charm for Weber. Being the coach of both indoor and outdoor track, this spring will mark Weber’s 13th different season coaching at FA! The past four years have shown considerable success for the track team, as there have been 73 gold and silver medals earned between the League Championship Meet and State Championship Meet—40 of them gold. Over these four years, the track teams have amassed one Class C state championship, one Class B state runner-up, one PVC championship, four PVC runners-up, and three League Championship “Performer of the Meet” awards.
Weber has managed to be named Coach of the Year four times in the past two years (twice for both indoor and outdoor track). This obviously is an incredible feat for a coach to accomplish, but Weber certainly does not take all the credit for these awards. “Those awards of course categorically do not happen without having phenomenal athletes, good human beings on the team, and great assistant coaches,” he said.
The coaches at Foxcroft Academy have only added to my success throughout my four years in high school. Knowing that all of our teams, rather than just one or two, are led by great coaches has given me a certain confidence that I hold in my everyday life. These coaches have brought an impressive aura to what it means to be a Pony with the way they carry themselves and lead their teams, and we as student-athletes are lucky to have them.