Falmouth High boys’ soccer coach Dave Halligan watches his team during a practice at the school on Tuesday. Halligan recently won his 500th career soccer game to go with more than 500 victories in boys’ basketball. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Dave Halligan admits many of his messages are clichés. Phrases like “success is directly proportional to the amount of work you put in” and “preparation starts now” are among his mantras.

“Sometimes people will be like, ‘He just keeps saying the same things,'” said Ben Pausman, a senior captain and midfielder on the Falmouth High boys’ soccer team. “But they’re meaningful and they work. With him, it’s all about trusting the process. He knows what he’s doing, and once you buy in, it’s a recipe for success.”

Halligan’s players have been buying in for 44 years. Late last week, the Falmouth coach got his 500th career soccer win. Halligan also has won more than 500 games as a boys’ basketball coach, a rare achievement in either sport.

Halligan, 70, is the state’s first coach to achieve 500 wins in two sports, according to longtime observers of high school sports in Maine.

“Nobody else has done it,” said Cooper Higgins, who as Falmouth’s athletic director hired Halligan in 1987 and now serves as an assistant on Halligan’s soccer staff. “And to go back-to-back seasons, from soccer right into basketball. That’s incredible.”

Halligan fell in love with sports while growing up in Falmouth, later playing soccer and basketball at the University of Southern Maine. He became head coach of the Cape Elizabeth boys’ soccer team in 1979 at age 27, compiling a 79-46-16 record over eight years before being hired at Falmouth in 1987. Overall, he has a 501-157-66 record as a soccer coach, including 12 state championships at Falmouth.


He also started coaching basketball at Falmouth in 1987, and has a 564-142 record with six state titles.

Like most of Falmouth’s players, Pausman is significantly taller than their round and white-haired coach who, with his impish grin, could pass for Santa Claus if he wore a beard.

But they all look up to Halligan, Pausman said.

“Whenever he talks, everyone stops what they’re saying,” Pausman said. “Everyone pays attention to him. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, we have so much respect for him and he’s been with Falmouth for so long, I just think he’s a revered person. We take everything he says to heart.”

Falmouth High boys’ soccer coach Dave Halligan gives instructions during practice on Tuesday. Halligan has a 501-157-66 record as a soccer coach, including 12 state championships. In basketball, he has a 564-142 record with six state titles. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Former players say the same thing.

“He still loves the game. He still has a healthy sense of humor about it,” said Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, who was a three time state champion and two-time All-American at Falmouth when he played for Halligan from 2006-09. “We always appreciated that, and frankly that’s a cool way he’s able to communicate, a way for him to relate to his players, that healthy boyishness appreciation for the game. And he’s clearly having fun while he’s coaching.”


Halligan said he has changed as a coach over the years.

“I’d like to say that I think I’m more compassionate,” he said. “As a young coach, you’re more into winning games and being successful, and once you’ve done that, you’re not as concerned about that, even though a lot of people think you are. You think more about the whole student, the whole person.”

Halligan never cuts a player from the soccer program. In basketball, he sometimes is unable to find a roster spot for every student, so he created a player/manager role that allows a willing student to be a scout team player in practice and be engaged as a statistician during games. Keeping as many students involved as possible matters because, for some, sports can be a much-needed sanctuary.

“There are so many mental health issues today. How have I changed? How have coaches changed? You have to look at the issues that these kids have to deal with,” Halligan said. “It’s the advent of technology. Everything is out there. They’re exposed to issues 24/7 and they’re still young people, still developing.”

One of Halligan’s core themes is that senior leadership is vital. “We’ll go as far as the seniors take us” is a favorite phrase. And he’s talking about each senior, whether a star or a sub.

Falmouth boys’ soccer co-captain Mason Quiet, center, listens as coach Dave Halligan speaks to the team during a practice. Halligan has been coaching soccer and boys’ basketball at Falmouth High since 1987. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

When Falmouth was in the midst of a four-game losing streak this fall, Halligan pulled aside his senior captains, Pausman and Mason Quiet. The message was simple: We’re OK and your goals are still attainable.


“He really encouraged us. He was very optimistic about the next four games,” Quiet said. “One thing he does say is, ‘Nobody cares if you lost to Gorham, Scarborough, whoever it may be, if we have the championship ball at the end of the season.’ And the team reacted insanely well to that.”

Emphasis on details and preparation remain a hallmark of Halligan’s approach. Each practice is well-crafted, with emphasis on individual and small-sided skill work designed to improve specific areas.

Ben Raymond, the head coach of boys’ soccer, boys’ lacrosse and swimming at Cape Elizabeth, played soccer for Halligan at Cape from 1984-86. He includes what he learned from Halligan in his own coaching style.

“Everything (at Halligan’s practices) had a meaning and fit into what we wanted to accomplish on game day, and I definitely try to do that,” Raymond said.

“The other thing was, he had a great relationship with all players,” Raymond added. “It didn’t mater if you were the best player or maybe not the best. He took the time to work with everybody and find out what made you tick.”

Falmouth boys’ soccer coach Dave Halligan talks to his team about their upcoming game strategy during practice on Tuesday. Halligan is a dedicated scout of opponents. “He’ll scout a team three times before we play them,” says assistant coach Cooper Higgins. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Halligan also is a dedicated scout. “He scouts like crazy,” said Higgins, the Falmouth assistant. “He’ll scout a team three times before we play them.”


Case in point: On Monday, he asked his wife, Joy, if she’d like to go out to dinner – after he scouted a game between South Portland and Scarborough just in case Falmouth sees either team in the playoffs. Joy came along to the game, just as she has done for decades since they were married in 1975.

“He just loves coaching,” Higgins said. “He’ll go to his grave coaching.”

Halligan’s not sure he’ll coach that long, but he’s not ready to quit. After all, since retiring as a middle school physical education teacher in 2020 after 45 years, he has so much extra free time.

“I still enjoy what I do. It’s a great activity,” Halligan said with a laugh. “It keeps you young because you’re involved with young people.”

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