YARMOUTH and STANDISH—All good things must come to an end and a really, really good thing recently had a storybook ending.
After nearly a half century as an educator and coach, Bob Morse said farewell to Yarmouth last month, but not before leading the Clippers girls’ Nordic ski team to yet another state championship.
Morse, who lives in Standish with his wife Christina and is the father of four and grandfather of five, plans to continue to ski, as well as catch up on some things that teaching and coaching have kept him from over the years.
“The family joke is that for 50 years I had a lot of things I had to get done and now it’s time to get them done,” Morse said.
Morse, 74, who taught at the middle school level for 50 years and coached a combination of skiing, cross country and outdoor track at the high school for 48, came back for one final season this winter before saying goodbye.
“It’s bittersweet because I’m still young at heart,” Morse said. “I retired from teaching and turned cross country over to John (Rogers). I wanted to coach one more year of skiing. I couldn’t have asked for a better year to go out. We had a great time. Sophia (Laukli) won (two individual state titles) and went to Nationals and even with (Maranacook and Maine Coast Waldorf in Class B this year) we won. We never talked about my retirement. I knew (the kids) knew, but we wanted to have a lot of fun. It’s the right time and it’s a coach’s dream to go out on top.”
Morse graduated from Deering High School, where he first got involved with skiing, and upon a friend’s recommendation, became a math and science teacher in Yarmouth beginning in 1970. Morse immediately began coaching cross country as well and proudly notes that the perception of female runners has changed dramatically over the years.
“I started coaching cross country before Title IX (which was enacted in 1972 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity),” Morse said. “The girls wanted a team and the question was, ‘Can they run a mile?’ (Future Olympic champion and Cape Elizabeth native) Joan Benoit (Samuelson) then came along and ran 25 more.”
Morse got involved with the nascent Yarmouth ski program in 1971. The Clippers won a girls’ Nordic title in 1984, becoming the first female squad from the school to win a championship in any sport.
Many more would follow.
In all, Yarmouth won 44 Nordic crowns under Morse (he won 24 more on the Alpine side, as well as three as cross country coach). In the process, the Clippers sent more than two dozen kids on to compete in college and three of Morse’s former skiers (Meghan Burns, Kalie Dunn and Emily Poole) became coaches themselves.
“Yarmouth was a perfect fit for me and I think I was a perfect fit for Yarmouth,” Morse said. “There’s something special here. There’s commitment, support and education. Most of the parents are educated and want their kids to have a good education. Almost every kid here gets off the bus and says, ‘thank you’ to the driver. They left my class and said, ‘Thank you, Mr. Morse.’ The kids know we’re dedicated to them. I had kids from every social group there is in the building. I didn’t anticipate doing all these years, but I had an inward passion for skiing and I naturally presented that.”
Laukli, one of the state’s premier skiers, who will become the next Clipper to compete at the next level, said that Morse appealed to skiers of all abilities.
“(Coach Morse) is great with both beginners and veterans,” Laukli said. “He’s a great coach. He makes skiing fun. He loves the sport. I’m sad he’s retiring, but I’m glad we could win states for him.”
Yarmouth athletic director Susan Robbins knows that Morse is irreplaceable (the Clippers are currently in the process of selecting a new coach).
“Bob is truly one of a kind,” Robbins said. “He is an incredibly talented teacher and coach who has dedicated his time, talent and enthusiasm to the Yarmouth community. What impresses me most about Coach Morse is his ability to connect with student-athletes and have a lasting impact on their lives. Bob has coached literally generations of families who have participated in cross country, skiing and track in this community. I feel lucky to have worked with such a wonderful coach. We are so grateful to have had such a tremendous educator in Yarmouth.”
Morse, a 2005 inductee into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, might be leaving Yarmouth on a day-to-day basis, but after teaching and coaching thousands of kids over nearly 50 years, his legacy will live on even longer.
“We had a lot of fun,” Morse said. “Year in, year out. The kids fell down and they’ve seen me fall down. It’s not about winning, but making (skiing) a lifelong sport. It’s humbling to have coached and taught so many kids. I loved doing it. I didn’t realize the impact I had. I’ve gotten letters from kids who skied for me who still remember dates and how much it meant to them.
“You don’t punch in and punch out in my profession. You don’t punch out until you retire.”
Bob Morse left his unique imprint on thousands of Yarmouth kids over the past half-century as a teacher and coach. Morse, who lives in Standish, retired after leading the Clippers girls’ Nordic ski team to a Class B state title last month.