Former Terrapins stay in the game

Eleven ex-Maryland players are Div. I head coaches, including five in Md.

February 11, 2010|By Katherine Dunn katherine.dunn@baltsun

During her playing days at Maryland, Jen Adams never thought about becoming a college lacrosse coach. She was too consumed with helping the Terrapins win four national championships. Then, suddenly, lacrosse was no longer the focal point of her life.

"The day I took off my Maryland uniform ... I knew I couldn't leave it behind," Adams said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do; I wanted to pass on the incredible experience that I had to future student-athletes and help them love the experience as much as I did."

So Adams, a three-time national Player of the Year who graduated in 2001, pursued a coaching career and is now entering her second season as Loyola's coach.

She is far from the only former Terrapin with a desire to stay in the game and pass along her expertise.

Of the 89 head coaches in NCAA Division I women's lacrosse, 11 are former Terrapins - 12 if you count Navy's Cindy Timchal, who did not play at Maryland but guided the Terps to eight NCAA championships in 16 years as their head coach.

That's 13.5 percent of the current NCAA Division I head coaches who have come through Maryland's program. Plus, 11 are assistant coaches at Division I programs. Five more are head coaches and three are assistants in Division II or III.

"There's just not another school that can claim anything close to that," said Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker, a Loyola graduate. "That's pretty outstanding. They are the precedent setters."

In Maryland, five of the seven Division I programs are coached by former Terps - Adams, Timchal, Maryland's Cathy Reese, Towson's Missy Doherty and Mount St. Mary's Sonia LaMonica. Last season, six of the seven were Maryland graduates before Courtney Connor left UMBC. LaMonica, in her first year at the Mount, replaced another Terps graduate in Denise Wescott, who moved on to Monmouth.

Like Adams, most of these women - and many of the other Terps graduates now coaching - did not head off to college planning to one day become a coach.

Some didn't know what they wanted to do. Others had plotted different careers. Doherty planned to teach science. Duke's Kerstin Kimel majored in journalism. Michele Uhelfelder, the former Stanford coach who is now starting a Division III program at Occidental in Los Angeles, intended to be a physical therapist.

Most of these coaches continued to play at the national level and on World Cup teams, but that wasn't enough.

"When it came time to find a career path, it was easy to continue to do something you love and share it with other people," Reese said. "It's easy for me to say that being back at Maryland. I love my job."

Said LaMonica: "Following my playing career, I felt the urge to stay in the game and give back to the game. What better way than to be a coach?"

While these coaches cannot pinpoint what is was about Maryland that made them all want to coach, they look back on a variety of things, including their overwhelming success, the fun they had, the tradition they upheld, Maryland's commitment to women's sports and, for those who played for Timchal, the freedom she allowed and the creativity she fostered.

"Cindy really instilled a great passion for the game in us," said Kelly Amonte Hiller, who played on two national championship teams and has coached Northwestern to five straight Division I titles.

"Her approach was one that really made you love the game, and so I think when you love something and you have passion for it, you can't help but want to stay involved and give back to the game. For me, that's one of the big reasons I coach. I feel like we did so much for our game to push it to a whole other level, and I want to try to create that type of environment for my players."

While coaching the Terps from 1991 to 2006, Timchal brought many nontraditional elements to the women's game, including hiring lacrosse legend Gary Gait as assistant coach and bringing in Dr. Jerry Lynch, a nationally renowned sports psychologist. Her teams, known for their flashy stickwork, athleticism and mental toughness, won a record seven straight national championships from 1995 to 2001.

"As a head coach you want the players at the end of the day to say, 'We did it ourselves,' " Timchal said. "That's what good leadership is about, to empower your players to step out on the field and know that they have what it takes to go out there and perform. Certainly, when you can watch them and know that they have the confidence and courage to do it themselves and to make those decisions in critical situations, it's always rewarding as a coach. Then that is the impetus that propelled them into being successful in what they're doing now with coaching."

At Maryland, Timchal picked up where Sue Tyler left off. Tyler, the Terps' first women's lacrosse coach, guided the team to national titles in 1980 and 1986. Wescott played for Tyler and said that although Tyler and Timchal had different coaching styles and the game had changed by Timchal's tenure, they inspired their players in similar ways.

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