Bangor girls soccer coach Joe Johnson talks to his team during practice in this Sept. 29, 2016, file photo. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Bangor High School girls soccer coach Joe Johnson, who guided the Rams to five Class A North championships and their first two state titles, has decided to step down after 11 seasons.

“It was an awful, gut-wrenching decision,” said Johnson, who turns 55 on Tuesday.

“I loved being around the kids. It was so much fun,” Johnson said. “But I’ve been doing it a long time, and it’s very preoccupying and tiring.”

Johnson is an avid mountain biker who hopes to pursue that activity.

“You put a lot on the backburner as a coach. The sacrifices you make get in the way of things you want to do while you still have the energy to do them,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to the mental break. You live it 24 hours a day.”

Johnson said going on a relaxing and long overdue family vacation to Utah last summer was an eye-opener and that having an ailing father also played a part in his decision to give up coaching while he is still healthy.

Johnson will retain his job as a health teacher at Bangor High.

Bangor won four consecutive regional championships from 2010 to 2013, posting a 65-5-2 record during that span and won another title in 2015.

The Rams won their first state championship in 2011, going 18-0 behind the dynamic striker tandem of Ashley Robinson and Grace Maclean, and notched their second in 2015 led by goalkeeper Emily Gilmore.

Bangor went 10-5-1 last season and lost to eventual three-time state champion Camden Hills 2-0 in the semifinals. The previous two seasons they lost to the Windjammers in the regional final.

Johnson also was Bangor’s girls varsity basketball coach for three seasons, guiding the Rams to a 38-22 record from 2015 to 2017 and made a Class A North championship game appearance in 2015.

Excluding track coaches who directed the indoor and outdoor teams, Johnson became the first person to coach two varsity sports at Bangor since Roger Reed coached boys soccer and basketball in the early 1990s.

Johnson gave up basketball after the 2016-17 season due to the demands and time commitment involved with coaching two varsity sports.

The Searsport native spent several years coaching basketball in Fairfax, Virginia, before returning to Maine in 1999 with wife Dianne and children Morgan and Garrett.

Johnson joked that he never wanted to be a soccer coach but when he returned to Maine, he was a part-time physical education teacher at 14th Street School in Bangor and was looking for more hours.

“They asked me if I could coach girls soccer and I said, ‘Sure I can,’” said Johnson, who became the JV soccer coach and assistant varsity at Bangor High under Jeff Ingalls and then Larry Smith before becoming the head coach.

He said he grew to love soccer.

Johnson also spent 14 seasons as the boys junior varsity basketball coach and boys varsity assistant under Roger Reed and Ed Kohtala.

“Working with those guys, I learned about the culture of Bangor High School. It was awesome,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he is fortunate to have coached at Bangor and was especially grateful to assistants Mark Boulier, Shannan Fotter and Dave McMahon along with athletic director Steven Vanidestine. Boulier is also leaving, according to Johnson.

“I’ve been around good people and that’s why we’ve been so successful,” said Johnson, who also credited the Bangor Soccer Club for developing to top-notch players for the program.

“We have been loaded with talent. We never would have accomplished what we have without the Bangor Soccer Club,” he said.

He will cherish the memories of his coaching days at Bangor.

“I had a bunch of good kids who established a legacy. I’ll have a lot of good stories to tell,” said Johnson, who praised Vanidestine and the players’ parents for their support.

“I’ve been blessed. Nobody had it easier than I did,” Johnson said.

After taking some time off, he said he would like to get back into coaching but not at the varsity level. He hopes to coach kids who are economically disadvantaged and are not able to afford playing on travel teams.