Jay Morissette, second from left, holds his Mainsail Award. With him are Morse High School student Natalie Emmerson, far left; Principal Eric Varney, second from right; and student Grace Tetreault, far right. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Jay Morissette is one of the winningest coaches in Maine history. In his 38 years as coach of the Long Reach Swim Club at the Bath Area Family YMCA, he has won 35 YMCA state championships.

Outside the pool, his impact can be measured in other ways, such as the number of weddings he has been invited to by former swimmers and coaches, and the many swimmers who got Long Reach tattoos to commemorate their experience on the team.

He has coached thousands of swimmers across multiple generations, with no plans to stop anytime soon. For his contributions to Bath-area youth, Morissette on Wednesday was awarded the annual Mainsail Award by the School Community Liaison Council at Morse High School.

“Bath is a special place, full of special people, and I am so fortunate to have landed here in 1985,” Morissette said during a ceremony at the school. “Then I blinked, and now 38 years later, I am standing here before you, humbled by this award, humbled by the thought anyone would deem me worthy of such an award and humbled to have my name added to the list of previous award recipients and to think I may have had an impact remotely as close.”

The Mainsail Award started in 1980. Previous recipients were in attendance Wednesday. Last year’s recipient was Jamie Dorr, executive director of the Midcoast Youth Center.

“These are among the greats in our community,” said Morse Principal Eric Varney. “I remember some as influential in my own life as a student. I feel lucky to be a member of a giving community who generally cares for the youth of Bath and the students in this area.”


Morissette coached Varney and Todd Marco, who became the Morse High School swim coach.

“I’ve coached so many amazing kids who would become amazing adults,” Morissette said.

“(Morissette) has dedicated a huge piece of (his) life to students from a wide range of age levels,” Varney said. “(He) demonstrates that hard work and perseverance toward goals can be fun, and success toward those goals just adds to that fun.”

Natalie Emmerson, a senior and the chairperson of the liaison council, said Morissette is known throughout the community and has influenced countless students.

“His swimmers can be found in our school, from club presidents to current faculty members to classmates,” Emmerson said. “Even those of you who have never had the privilege of swimming for him have undoubtedly benefitted from the lessons he teaches.

“He teaches his swimmers the importance of hard work and discipline, of mental toughness. Just as importantly, he has built a culture that celebrates fun and good times and stresses the importance of being a good teammate, a good human being and the humility of hard work above all else.”


Morissette reflected on his first few years as Long Reach coach.

“I was not good,” he said. “But I continued to learn, grow and continued to maintain the support of the community that seemed to believe in what I was doing, and that continued support has led me to be here today.”

He had some advice for students, especially the seniors who are graduating next month.

“Awards and accolades are not what anyone should set out for as you all go on in your lives,” he said. “I would encourage you to chase happiness, chase your passions, chase the pursuit to leave a place better than when you find it. This will lead you to a rich and rewarding life not only for you but especially for those around you in the communities where you will live.”

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