Seacoast Christian boys’ basketball coach Skyler Archer watches his team in a preseason scrimmage. Archer is just 19, one year removed from playing for the team. Among his players are a cousin and his brother, Jet Archer, seen next to him. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

SOUTH BERWICK — Last February, Skyler Archer scored 21 points to lead the Seacoast Christian boys’ basketball team to a Class D South quarterfinal victory at the Augusta Civic Center.

This winter, Archer intends to be back in the playoffs – but his role will be vastly different. At age 19, he is Seacoast Christian’s varsity basketball coach.

Skyler Archer talks to his team at halftime during a recent preseason scrimmage at Seacoast Christian in South Berwick. Archer is serving as an unpaid volunteer coach. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“Coaching is something I’ve always dreamed about. I did not think it was going to happen this fast,” said Archer, who graduated last spring. “The way things happened, it was meant to be.”

The Archer family has a long connection to Seacoast Christian, a pre-K-to-12 private school with about 50 high school students.

Nikki Winship, the eldest of Tony and the late Deborah Archer’s six children, is the school’s athletic director. Jetstar Archer, the youngest sibling, is a senior and the leading returning scorer from the 2016-17 squad that finished 12-8. Stephen Winship, Nikki’s husband, will be Skyler’s assistant coach.

“I honestly wasn’t concerned,” about hiring Skyler, Nikki Winship said. “He’s done a great job laying down the rules. It is a family dynamic. We all sat down, we all talked about what it would look like. We have time when we talk work and then we have time when we can just talk basketball.”

Finding someone to coach can be challenging at Seacoast Christian. While most high school coaches in Maine receive stipends, Skyler Archer and the school’s other coaches are volunteers. A candidate also must fit within the school’s faith-based framework.

Last season, Jaylan Archer, 25, filled in as the boys’ coach with the understanding he would not be a long-term coach.

“I’m hoping that Skyler is my coach (long-term),” Nikki Winship said. “I would like him to be the coach for many years to come.”

Those who know Skyler Archer say he is a mature, disciplined person. “I don’t think we see age. I think we just see basketball IQ,” said Ian Condon, one of his players. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

According to the Maine Principals’ Association’s coaching eligibility guidelines, a coach must be at least 20 years old or a high school graduate. Like every coach in the state, Skyler Archer has had to meet other requirements. Before the season, a coach must sign a statement agreeing to abide by all MPA bylaws, policies and ethics codes, and view three safety-related videos pertaining to concussions, heat illness and sudden cardiac arrest. Coaches have 12 months after being hired to also complete courses in coaching principles, sport first aid and basic CPR.

“It’s very rare for someone that young to be appointed a head coach for a team, that’s for sure. Boy, that’s amazing,” said Marty Ryan, executive director of the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“It is unusual but not unprecedented,” said Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, noting the example of Dillon Kingsbury.

Kingsbury was a 19-year-old college sophomore when he became Easton High’s boys’ varsity coach in 2011. Kingsbury compiled a 67-15 record in four seasons before taking the varsity job at Houlton. He is now the girls’ varsity coach at Central Aroostook.

Those who know Skyler Archer say he is a mature, disciplined person with a passion for basketball.

“I don’t think we see age. I think we just see basketball IQ, and he’s a lot higher than most 19-year-olds,” said Ian Condon, a senior forward/center in his first year at the school.

“I would say he’s a natural-born leader,” said Stephen Winship. “There was no doubt in my mind he was up for the challenge.”

Archer lives in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, with his father in a converted barn. Skylar is studying business at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth. He also works for a concrete company in Dover, New Hampshire.

“I’m actually doing the easy stuff, the office work,” Archer said of his job.

Last Friday, Archer coached his first game, a scrimmage against Tri-City Christian Academy of Somersworth, New Hampshire, held at the school’s small on-campus gym. Decorated Christmas trees adorned two corners of the gym and a full crowd jammed into the limited seating.

Wearing dress pants, a light-blue collared shirt and a pull-over sweater in a darker shade of blue, Archer looked the part of a coach. His instructions were simple and direct during timeouts.

“Hands up on defense. Talking. Remember?” he told his squad after the first quarter.

During the scrimmage, Archer appeared calm. He alternated between standing and kneeling, and did not yell. Instead he issued clear directions for defensive alignments and reminders to increase offensive efficiency while working all 16 players who dressed into the game.

“He was our leader last year on the floor, so now he’s our leader off the floor,” Jetstar Archer said. “He understands our offenses a lot better because he ran them. He understands what it’s like to be a player better. The dynamic is definitely interesting, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Jetstar Archer, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward with good ball-handling skills, said he has to remind himself that his older brother is the head coach.

“That goes for all of us who played for him,” said junior guard Marlon Bernardo. “We have to treat him like a coach now, not as a player. He’s adjusted very well.”

After the scrimmage, which ended with Seacoast winning, 39-36, Skyler Archer admitted to having a bit of anxiety.

“At the beginning it was definitely nerve-wracking,” he said, “but I’ll get the hang of it, just like (the players) will get the hang of it, too. It’s a team effort.”

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or:

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