Assistants take on greater roles with clubs

Tammie Veinotte isn’t afraid to let her voice be heard during games or practice. In fact, it would be unusual if the Skowhegan field hockey team’s assistant coach was silent.

She handles the defense for the Indians and is vocal when it comes to instructing players about strategy or technique.

“She’s one of my favorite coaches,” all-conference sweeper Haley Carter said. “She knows everything about defense.”

The freedom Veinotte and the other assistant coaches on the team is afforded comes from the top.

“I think the strength of our program is our assistant coaches,” said Paula Doughty, whose teams have won 19 Class A titles in her 37 years as head coach.”The more good people you have bouncing ideas off each other the better it is.”

Skowhegan and many teams from around the state begin quarterfinal round play Tuesday, and every successful program relies on its entire staff.

The Indians list four assistant coaches on their roster, including Veinotte, Norma Boynton and volunteers Fawn Haynie and Kim Leo. And much like football staffs do, each coach has specific responsibilities and the autonomy to implement them.

In Winthrop, head coach Jess Merrill found herself in a favorable situation when she took over in 2013. Merrill, who was junior varsity coach for three years, swapped positions with Sharon Coulton, who in more than 30 years as head coach at the school won 300 games. The pair have worked well together.

“It evolved pretty quickly,” Merrill said of their coaching relationship. “I don’t know if I could coach without her. She helps me with about everything we do.”

Just as Skowhegan’s staff does, Merrill and Coulton share responsibilities in practice.

“In practice I take more of the defensive focus and she’s more the offensive,” Merrill said. “She comes up with her own drills.”

At Maine Central Institute, head coach Nancy Hughes need to look across the dinner table if she sought input from her assistants, who include husband, Greg, and daughter, Meghan. The Huskies have played for the state championship the past two seasons and the staff, which also includes Amanda Riendeau, has played a key role in the team’s success.

“It’s definitely a collaborative relationship,” Hughes said. “They see things I don’t.”

Greg Hughes works with the goalies while Meghan concentrates on defense. And this isn’t necessarily a staff that separates the sport from the family once they’re away from the field.

“We talk field hockey all the time,” Nancy said. “Greg and I run every morning before school and we usually talk field hockey the whole time.”

Ultimately the toughest decisions fall on the head coach, but the amount of responsibility they cede to their assistant can help when one-on-one situations arise.

“The girls listen to her as much as they listen to me,” Merrill said of Coulton. “She’s so well respected. To have a successful program, you have to be on the same page.”

“Added Doughty: “In the end I have to make the hard decisions. And in the end I go with them 90 percent of the time.”

Carter, who is vocal during games herself, welcomes Veinotte’s input, as well as the rest of the staff.

“Everyone has something to say and everyone listens,” she said. “I really love Veinotte and I’m going to miss her when I leave.”

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