SKOWHEGAN — The milestone crept up on Paula Doughty, as milestones often do to coaches. She has been too focused on her Skowhegan Area High School field hockey team to keep track of the wins.

“I don’t really pay attention to that stuff. My husband is the one that pays attention to that stuff. He said at the beginning of the season, ‘I think you’ll hit 500 this year,’ but I didn’t know it was today,” Doughty said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Doughty won her 500th game becoming the first in her sport to reach the milestone in state history.

Skowhegan (10-1-1) beat Lewiston 15-0, setting off a celebration between Doughty, her team and fans. The Indians posed for a photo, with Doughty inviting any former player in attendance to join the team.

“It’s a really big deal. It’s a really big accomplishment for her. It’s good to be a part of it,” Skowhegan co-captain Rylie Mullin said.

Doughty is 500-86-19 in 36 seasons at Skowhegan, cementing her status as the top field hockey coach in state history. She has led the Indians to 16 state titles – with 13 coming in the last 15 years. Doughty’s first state title came in 1991. She remembered that game, a 1-0 win over South Portland at Bowdoin College, as one of her favorites. Skowhegan won after two 20-minute overtimes and 26 pairs of penalty corners.

“We played South Portland, who was all-everything. We showed up and South Portland had this big S-P. We had a sheet that said ‘Go Indians,'” Doughty said. “I don’t think we entertained the enormity of the whole thing.”

With an impressive .826 winning percentage, Doughty is the all-time winningest field hockey coach in state history. Longtime former Belfast coach Allen Holmes went 432-162-43 in 40 seasons with the Lions before retiring after the 2012 season. He was later inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Moe McNally went 407-144-21 in 35 seasons with Gardiner.

Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty, upper left, celebrates with her team following her 500th victory.   Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty, upper left, celebrates with her team following her 500th victory. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Doughty was calm throughout Tuesday’s game. She coached barefoot, as is her style.

“I always coach with no shoes on because I’m always hot,” Doughty said.

Doughty’s intensity often comes through in her propensity to wander out of the coach’s area on the sideline as she instructs her team.

An official recently stuck a Post-it note with a message to Doughty on the score’s table wagon at Skowhegan. “Paula take 3 steps back,” it read. On Tuesday, Doughty never left the coach’s box, but the game was never in doubt, either. Skowhegan scored its first goal 45 seconds in, a Julia Steeves tally, and the Indians led 8-0 at halftime.

Doughty began as a junior varsity coach in 1974. She took a year off to begin her family before returning to coaching, eventually taking over Skowhegan’s varsity program in 1981. After Tuesday’s game, Doughty marveled at the advances in field hockey over the last four decades. Roll-ins from the sidelines are now a thing of the past. Goalies wore only cloth leg guards, with no masks and no gloves.

“It was a very different game back then but it’s grown into a beautiful game,” Doughty said. “When I started coaching in 1974, we didn’t have tournaments. They hired me three days before my first game. My first game I lost 12-0 to Gardiner.”

Junior varsity coach Norma Boynton was Doughty’s first team captain, as a junior varsity player in 1974. Doughty credited her coaching staff as a key to her success, most notably assistant coach Tammie Veinotte.

“She’s been with me for at least 250 of these wins. She’s the most amazing coach. If she had a varsity team, she’d probably beat us,” Doughty said.

Tradition is important at Skowhegan and Doughty stays in close touch with alumni.

“On a daily basis, I hear from at least two or three. They’re either having a baby or they’re getting married or they’ve got a great job or they’re getting divorced,” Doughty said.

There’s pressure that comes with joining the Skowhegan field hockey program, Mullin said, but Doughty never lets past success overwhelm the present.

“The Skowhegan Indians are a big deal and you have to live up to it. She gets you ready for it. She prepares you for the game,” Mullin said.

Like instituting the running game. The Indians must be in top shape, so that means they run. A lot.

“We can’t walk anywhere,” Mullin said.

Doughty points to the close to 100 Skowhegan alumni who moved on to play college field hockey, including 35 at the Division I level, as a sign of field hockey’s growth over the years. She noted the numerous players from around the state playing at a high level in college. Doughty’s role in developing field hockey in Maine cannot be overstated.

“I tried to be active helping field hockey grow in the state of Maine. I think Maine field hockey is amazing,” Doughty said. “I’m really proud of our sport.”

Doughty said after 43 years, this will be her last year teaching. She will not stop coaching anytime soon, however.