Brian Higgins was a three-sport athlete at Hampden Academy, playing football, basketball and baseball. But it is soccer that has propelled Higgins into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. Over a span of 32 seasons, Higgins has coached the Ellsworth varsity boys' soccer team to a record of 418 wins with 84 losses and 38 ties. A player has never been cut.
During this period, Ellsworth has won l~ Eastern Maine championships, five in Class A and nine in Class B. The Eagles claimed Class B state titles in 1985, 1988 and 1989. In 1993, Ellsworth and Yarmouth were named co-champions.
Higgins' teams have never had a losing season. In 1993, Ellsworth was 18-0-0. The 1989 team was 16-0-2. Eight of Higgins' teams had only one loss. Four others completed their seasons with two defeats.
All this with a coach who brought no soccer background to the job when he began coaching at Ellsworth in 1974. What's his formula for success?
Former goalkeeper Cory Smith is one of more than 500 who have played for Higgins in Ellsworth's soccer program.
He's not certain how Higgins has achieved such consistent success, but the won-lost numbers tell their own story. "You can't complain about the results," said Smith in an interview with Sunday Telegram sportswriter Rachel Lenzi last fall. "It's amazing. It ties into having soccer being a tradition.
"I can't explain what it's like to play for someone who's my father's age and working for people who have played for Coach Higgins."
Higgins' son, Darby, played soccer for his Dad. Brian Higgins has coached All-Americas, All-New Englanders and All-Staters. One athlete who wore Ellsworth's maroon and white was an exchange student.
Nils Jorgen-Ohre spent a year in Ellsworth and is remembered for bestowing the highest compliment Higgins said he ever received as coach and a teacher.
"He said, 'You explain things so much better than my coaches in Norway can,''' Higgins said. 'That meant a lot to me." Higgins wasn't an instant success. When he accepted the position of physical education teacher at Ellsworth in 1974, the superintendent, Dale Higgins (no relation) asked if he could coach soccer.
Ellsworth lost its first three games. Higgins began to study his subject and the Eagles recovered to finish 7-4-1. In only seven subsequent seasons, 1979 (1l-5-2), 1990 (9-5-1), 1992 (8-7-1), 1998 (10-5), 2000 (10-5), 2001 (9-5-1) and 2002 (12-4-1) did Ellsworth lose as many or more. In addition to boys' soccer. Higgins coached boys' varsity tennis for 22 seasons, winning four Eastern Maine titles and a state championship in 1996.
He coached girls' varsity tennis for 21 years, winning seven Eastern Maine championships. Higgins didn't take a direct path to a teaching-coaching career. After high school, he spent two years working at odd jobs before enlisting in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
After five years of service as a hospital corpsman with a tour of duty in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Air Wing in Chu Lai, Higgins was discharged with the rank of Petty Officer, 2nd Class. He earned an Associate of Science degree Mitchell College in New London, Conn. and played basketball and baseball.
In 1974 Higgins completed requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree at Springfield College. Brian and his wife Tracey have two children, Darby and Devin.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.