AMESBURY — Bringing coaches and players together for a preseason taste test seemingly since the invention of the wheel, the Amesbury Middle School hosted the Cape Ann League Field Hockey Jamboree last Thursday, and for new Amesbury head coach, Bethany Williams Noseworthy, it was a resounding welcome to a preseason clinic she used to watch from behind the scenes.
With two games running every half hour between the back field and inside the adjoining Landry Stadium, teams with names like the Hornets and the Royals flooded the fields while other teams with names like the Clippers and Tigers stirred impatiently in the shade.
Noseworthy and members of her Indian team were there early: setting up the team fundraiser concession stand, printing fliers for the Pettengill House food drive, and making sure there were enough high energy snacks and beverages to coincide with some early fall heat.
For the past 39 years, this role belonged to Gail Kelleher, Amesbury's most revered coach who helped the Indian field hockey team to Boston Celtics dynasty numbers: 17 CAL titles (many in succession), two North Sectional championships in the state tournament and a career record of 398-170.
Suffice to say, Noseworthy has some serious cleats to fill. But according to Kelleher, there couldn't be a better replacement.
"Bethany has the best of traits for the job," Kelleher said. "She grew up playing the game, and she loves it. She's very passionate about the kids that make up the team, and she's as equally passionate about the sport.
"I don't need to tell Bethany to get in there and care about the program because she already does, and that's probably the most important part of coaching," Kelleher said. "It's the love of the game and the passion for kids. She already has both."
In every venture, Noseworthy has never had a lapse in passion.
A lifelong Salisbury resident and former Triton Viking ('91) standout under Yvonne VanGoor, Noseworthy traveled to the University of Southern Maine to play field hockey. Before her freshman season began, however, she blew out her anterior cruciate ligament and spent the rest of the year serving as the team manager, watching and cheering from the sidelines.
Noseworthy was not to be dismayed, and after recuperating, she came back healthy and played out her final three years while earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.
With four years of college behind her, Noseworthy sought a career, subsequently giving field hockey the back seat.
She worked as a residential counselor for a mental health agency for three and a half years, and then took a job working within the court system in hopes of securing her dream job as a juvenile probation officer.
After a dozen indifferent interviews, Noseworthy hit a wall. She stayed within the court system and accepted a promotion that sent her to Boston to work in human resources, but after four years, Noseworthy realized she still wasn't doing what she loved: working with kids.
She had to go back to school.
Noseworthy went to Salem State College and graduated with a master's in education in school counseling. After mailing out applications, it wasn't long before Noseworthy was working with youths at the Amesbury Academy of Strategic Learning as a tutor and then, presently, as a guidance counselor.
But something was missing.
Toward the end of her final year in graduate school, Noseworthy contacted an old friend in Kelleher, and voiced her desire to volunteer within the program.
"I was very aware of her then and respected her coach, Yvonne Van Goor," Kelleher said. "So when Bethany indicated interest in coaching in Amesbury, I was flabbergasted because I knew her well, her family well, her coach, and I just thought that we could mesh very easily."
After a year volunteering as the freshman coach, the junior varsity head coach position opened, and Noseworthy jumped at the chance. Now seven years later, Noseworthy finds herself in a position some would deem enviable, while others would consider steeped with expectation.
Noseworthy is just glad to have the opportunity.
"I played for the best in high school, and I got to coach with the best here, and I really feel like I'm trying to carry on Gail's legacy and what she's left behind here," Noseworthy said. "That's really my main focus because she's been such an enormous mentor to me, and her philosophy is my philosophy."
What Kelleher expected and what Noseworthy now adheres to is what essentially produces title caliber teams: to present yourself with grace and class; to practice every day like you're in a game; to follow through on your commitments; to expect excellence from yourself; and to expect the same excellence from your teammates.
With a short preseason, Noseworthy has been working the 2009 Indians hard physically, but she has also accentuated the importance of team unity.
And according to Noseworthy, it begins with captainship.
"I think leaderhip is going to be a big thing this year. Our three captains, before anything else, are just really decent kids, and they lift the team up," Noseworthy said. "They support me, and they support each other, and they are just the leaders that you hope for and that the kids respect.
"I think a mutual respect has to be earned," said Noseworthy of the relationship between herself and her players. "They need to know what the clear expectations are, and to support and encourage one another, and I think the value of team work will have a lot to do with success."
Amesbury's three senior captains, Kerri Salvatore, Josephine Lannon, and Nicole Costa, all gave mention to the progression of their team's bonding and their skill level.
"We need to improve our team chemistry because I think that's what we lacked last year," said Lannon, a 17-year-old right wing. "This year we have a real close group of seniors, and we're all good friends on the team, and I think if we stay positive and work together, it will show in our play."
Costa nearly mirrored what her fellow captain had to say.
"If we're not tight as a team, it will carry over onto the field, but this year, we're already a lot closer than we were last year," said Costa, a 17-year-old left wing/forward whose team has already had multiple captain practices cookouts, and get-togethers to discuss the upcoming season. "It's like freshman year all over again."
Salvatore hit upon another of last season's nagging problems, but with an air of optimism for 2009.
"We have high hopes. I feel like we're less experienced, but I also feel like we're coming together," said Salvatore, a 17-year-old center/midfielder. "We have to be stronger on offense. Defensively, I think we're solid, but if we work on our weaknesses and continue to improve and work hard, I think we can pull it off."
With assistant coaches Amanda Boody (new junior varsity coach) and Krissy Pothier (new freshman coach), Noseworthy, in addition to a wealth of knowledge accrued from two legendary coaches, is focused on making her team understand that everything is possible.
"There are pieces of Yvonne and Gail that are essential in bringing this team together," Noseworthy said. "To use inspiration, and team meetings, and approaching this season with a mentality of when we get to the state tourney, not if we do."