Coaching at a small school is never easy.

In a community that may have a few hundred people and less than 50 students in the school, it means the pickings can be slim for athletics whether it is soccer in the fall, baseball in the spring or basketball in the winter.

Such is the case for Islesboro Central School girls basketball coach Will Aldrich.

The 63-year old coach is in his third year of coaching the Eagles, but is certainly not a newcomer to the coaching ranks.

What many may not know about Aldrich is the past few years in Islesboro is not the first time he’s been asked to scrape the bottom of the barrel for players, as he was the driving force behind starting a program at the collegiate level in Maine one decade ago.

Aldrich was the first coach of the women’s basketball program at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, and he was the one primarily responsible in getting the ball rolling with the program.

The task, to say the least, was a daunting one. Fielding a team at Islesboro, which this season has just six players, was a day at the beach by comparison.

“We had one girl,” he said.

The team’s first year on the collegiate hardwood was set to be the 1998-99 season, but after Aldrich had a hard time getting enough girls to field a team before the season was to start, the EMCC athletic director nixed the season and told Aldrich to “hit the road” and start recruiting some players for the 1999-2000 season.

The following season, albeit with a small team of 11 players, the Golden Eagles were on the map and on the floor, competing in the Yankee Small College Conference.

Prior to being named the coach at EMCC, Aldrich had been the coach of the Bucksport High School jayvee girls basketball program for six years and was also the assistant coach of the John Bapst of Bangor boys hoop team for a few seasons.

Aldrich coached at EMCC for four years before stepping down, primarily due to the fact that his work as a contractor was bringing him lots of customers through the Midcoast — primarily on Islesboro.

His coaching credentials are the primary reason he was asked — more like ambushed — by two mothers that had daughters on the team as he was boarding the ferry back to Lincolnville after a day’s work on the island.

“These two women came up and [one of them] literally grabbed a hold of me with a grip that said she wasn’t letting go,” he said. “And she said — mind you this is two days before the season’s starting — she said, ‘We don’t have a coach. We heard you’ve coached before. You’ve got to do it.’ “

Aldrich looked into it and, given the fact the majority of his work was already bringing him to Islesboro, he agreed to coach the team.

Aldrich admitted it was an adjustment going from coaching collegiate athletes to coaching high school girls that may not be completely dedicated to the sport. But when it comes right down to it, coaching is the same at every level.

“It was different, but I just evaluated for what I had and worked with that,” he said. “It’s still basketball and it’s still just working on the fundamentals and executing correctly. I wasn’t worried about wins and losses.”

Aldrich recalled people telling him to “have fun with it” and that “you probably won’t win any games” given the fact that the Eagles’ top two players had just graduated. Despite that, Aldrich and the Eagles earned four wins on the hardwood during that first season and also found the win column four more times last year. Thus far in 2008-10, the Eagles are 1-2.

Having such small numbers and competing against Class D schools that often have at least three times as many students, if not more, than Islesboro does, Aldrich and the Eagles have a realistic approach in how they play every game.

“I tell them, ‘Don’t pay that much attention to the score, pay attention to doing the right things on the floor and executing properly,’ ” he said. “And that’s what we’re after.”

Needless to say, Aldrich has made a positive impact on the program. Success is not always measured in wins and losses, and the impact he has on the teams he coaches seems to reaffirm that fact.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me on the island and others at the end of the season they’ll say, ‘Boy they’ve gotten a lot better,’ ” he said. “So we try to make better basketball players and better players make better teams and that’s really what we’re shooting for here.”

Aldrich lives on the island during the week, but resides full time in Veazie. He has done this for the last five years.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.