Sleep will not come easily for Sarah Millington on Sunday night.

At 8 a.m. Monday, she’ll hold her first practice as South Portland High’s field hockey coach. And the former Red Riots star cannot wait.

“I’m so unbelievably excited and honored,” said Millington, a 2002 graduate of South Portland. “South Portland field hockey has always been there for me. It’s an honor to be able to return the favor and give back to the program that gave me so much. And it’s my hometown.”

Millington, 35, won’t be the only first-year coach at South Portland when fall practices begin Monday. Aaron Filieo, another South Portland native, is stepping in as the head football coach and Kevin St. Jarre is the new girls’ soccer coach.

“That’s the most new coaches we’ve had starting a fall season since I’ve been here,” said South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston, who became the Riots’ athletic director in 2011. “All three are quality people and all three are going to do a great job. Obviously you like to have consistency but whenever you have to hire someone new, the change can be good for any given program. New coaches bring in new philosophies and new ways of doing things.”

Having hometown coaches is important too, he said.

“When you can hire alumni who have played here and know the tradition and know what the community is about, that helps,” said Livingston. “It helps bring the pride back to the program.”

All three programs are coming off tough 2018 seasons. Field hockey finished 2-12. Girls’ soccer finished 4-8-3, losing in the preliminary round of the Class A South tournament. Football finished 1-7 and did not play a scheduled quarterfinal playoff game because of a lack of healthy players.

Filieo said 74 players have signed up for football. The first practice is at 7 a.m. Monday, then the team heads to Kamp Kohut in Oxford for a week of training camp. “It’s exciting,” said Filieo. “It’s good to be home and it feels right.”

Filieo, 44, graduated from South Portland in 1993 and later was an assistant coach there for six years before leading Cape Elizabeth’s program for 15 years, compiling a 106-48 record. He was hired in December to coach South Portland and has been a constant presence since.

“It’s a similar situation in a lot of ways in terms of trying to rebuild something,” he said. “We’ll be using the same blueprint that we used in Cape Elizabeth to generate excitement around football in a town and in a time that it might not be automatic … I feel we had a good blueprint in Cape and it obviously worked and got the program to where it’s in a good place now. I don’t think it will take long for us to get South Portland to that place.”

Millington, who was the junior varsity coach last year and has been involved in the program for 10 years, said she believes her team has the ability to rebound quickly as well. “I think the most important thing right now is to build the confidence and empower the young athletes to get them to believe in themselves,” she said. “They have a lot of talent; they just need to recognize that.”

St. Jarre is returning to coaching after a four-year absence. A history and philosophy teacher at Cape Elizabeth High, he was the girls’ coach at Massabesic from 2011-14. Because of the travel between the schools, St. Jarre said “I wasn’t able to coach the way I wanted to coach. It was hard on the girls.”

The 51-year-old St. Jarre, who grew up in Madawaska, missed coaching and was looking for the right opportunity. He worked with the South Portland players in the summer.

“Summer soccer, I tried to keep things light and informal,” he said. “It was as much about trying to match names to faces as anything else. I don’t make determinations on team assignments until tryouts begin. We’ll have two days of intense tryouts.”

St. Jarre said he won’t sleep much before the first day of practice.

“I know the girls get nervous before tryouts,” he said. “Well I’m always a nervous wreck before tryouts. I don’t sleep well before them and I don’t sleep well after announcing who’s on varsity, who’s on junior varsity and who’s on first team. But then the hard work begins after the tryouts. They’ve got to get used to a new coach and a new system.”


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