Try this one on for size. You are a college soccer coach and your team is enjoying one fantastic season. The word fantastic was not chosen lightly.
Your team is 18-0-2. They average 3.2 goals a game. Said team has given up one goal all season. That’s no typo. They actually allowed only one goal all season. You have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Soccer Tournament and you shutout your opponent. But…you are eliminated from the tournament.
Meet Adrian Dubois. He graduated from Fall Mountain Regional High School in 2005. He was New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year that school year, meaning he was saluted as the best darn high school soccer player in the state. He went on to the University of New Hampshire, where he started four years as a midfielder, received the Glenn Abern Award as the team’s most improved player, made the America East all-tournament team, and was part of another Wildcat team at a higher level that broke the Top 30 rankings nationally.
The native of Acworth, N.H. didn’t stop playing the sport when he graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. He has competed against some of the best players in the world. He played in both the National Premier Soccer League and the United Soccer League. He also believes “from the time I started, I was a natural as a coach.”
Tim St. Pierre, who has coached the Fall Mountain Wildcats for 20 years, was Dubois high school coach. The headman in Langdon said, “He is wildly successful at everything he’s ever done. He has great character and integrity and finds a way to get things done. We still talk a number of times a year. I’m glad he still calls me to get my opinion.”
Once upon a time, Dubois did not want St. Pierre’s opinion.
The truth is, Dubois wasn’t always that way. The hot commodity of a coach at St. Joseph’s College in Maine remembers the first time he laid eyes on St. Pierre. Dubois recalled, “He was lurking in the background up on the hill when I was playing summer soccer up in North Charlestown. We have become very close over time, but it wasn’t always that way.”
Dubois reached next into his bag of great stories, which he has accumulated along the journey. This one deals directly with St. Pierre. Dubois admitted, “I was kind of a hot shot back then. It caused us to butt heads a little bit. We were playing down at Hollis-Brookline and I was the starting midfielder and acting like a hot shot. We either tied or won the game, but coach was not happy. He called our huddle at the end of the game and started sternly addressing us. He started talking about prima donnas and then seemed to get more personal and he was staring right at me. He said you always put yourself first, you don’t work hard enough, you should go and play at a prep school, because if you are not going to work hard, you are not going to play anymore here. We were both angry at the time and then after the huddle, we went our own ways.”
In the next few hours, the message sunk in. Dubois said this week, “That day was the turning point of my work ethic. I was a different player after that day. My parents raised me the right way and things went very well during my Fall Mountain days. We had three semi-final appearances and lost in the finals once to Hollis-Brookline. We had an extraordinary team.”
“Tim introduced me to coaching,” Dubois told me. “He brought in middle school groups and the players gave them clinics. I enjoyed doing it. This was a chance for me to give back to the community. I felt right away I was a natural at it, and I have coached ever since then, in one way or another.”
Dubois gives St. Pierre the ultimate compliment. “He was a over all great coach and life teacher,” he articulated, adding, “He has helped loads of us figure things out.”
This is Dubois fourth year at St. Joseph. He was basically a last minute replacement, when a coach departed just prior to a season beginning. He recalled, “I have been told I wasn’t the first choice, but I was able to get the job. My coaching style is a combination of the coaches I have worked with and played for. We play an intricate, entertaining style that takes time to learn. Things may have started slow my first year because of that [5-15]. I thought it was important to implement my style. It took time. I wanted to make it work. I learned to recruit when I was at UMass Boston and that has helped me a lot too.”
His style was well received and the next two seasons the Monks were 11-7-1 and 15-2-6 respectively. When one adds this year’s record, Dubois stands 50-24-9 since taking over the program. Yes, initially, using the time to implement his system may have been a step back-“I felt I had to take that chance” – but it appears it is certainly paying off.
Dubois hopes he is able to see St. Pierre when he returns home for Thanksgiving. The Fall Mountain coach knows exactly where he can find Dubois at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.
“He’ll be playing with the alumni [on the green] in Walpole. That game has been going on since before the year 2000 and many a proud alumni show up and play every year,” St. Pierre predicted.
Dubois confirmed he would be there. “I spend up to two weeks a year in the area,” Dubois told us, adding, “and the Thanksgiving game is one thing I always look forward to.”
The St. Joseph’s coach is a family man. He loves visiting his parents in Acworth, his sister in Claremont, and speaks highly of “my wonderful girlfriend of six years, who came to join me from California.”
I have digressed enough, but now it’s time to mention how Dubois’ team was eliminated from this year’s NCAA Tournament when they tied Tufts 0-0 after two overtimes. True soccer fans know what comes next. Penalty kicks.
So, St. Joseph’s gets to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 14-0-2 regular season. They sweep their conference tournament’s three games by a 8-0 count, defeat Mitchell in their opening NCAA match 2-1, giving up their first goal of the season in the process, and then in the Tufts game lose 4-2 on penalty kicks. Again, they give up only one goal all season.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Dubois told me. “You don’t lose a game all season and give up only one goal, and you are done for the season. I never, never could of dreamt up anything like that. We went toe to toe with Tufts for however many rounds it was and had to lose like that. We had a good year last year and went to the NCAA Tournament and now we had another spectacular year, broke NCAA records, and still had this ending. We weren’t trying to simulate last year, but in the end we passed it.”
St. Pierre felt as bad as his pupil. He said, “I guess there are no moral victories at that level. Adrian has always been special in the sport. He grew up playing club ball, where he had to play a role among many talented players. Then he played for us, where his expectations were personally higher. The two scenarios made for a dual role, which made him better. His parents were tremendously dedicated to his growth. When I first went to watch him in middle school, he was good, but nobody could have predicted the level he went to play at.”
I asked Dubois if he had taken the opportunity as yet to allow himself to think about how far the program had come under his leadership and how special the recently completed season actually was? His answer was about what I expected.
“I’m a big picture guy. Maybe it is one of my downfalls, but I don’t give myself a lot of time to reflect. Maybe some time I should stop and allow myself to smell the roses. I am always looking at the big picture and am ready to move on to what’s next,” he offered.
When I told St. Pierre what Dubois said, the long time coach replied, “He doesn’t need to stop and smell the roses. That is his special sauce. When it comes time to give it up, then he can stop, and by then those roses will smell really good.”