Former Skowhegan field hockey player MaKayla Hancock was recently promoted to head coach of Div. I La Salle University in Philadelphia. Hancock had been an assistant at La Salle for the past two seasons. Contributed photo/La Salle Athletics

It’s been a rocket ship ride through the field hockey coaching ranks for MaKayla Hancock, a 2009 Skowhegan Area High School graduate who twice earned all-state honors.

Hancock, who in 2009 was a Miss Maine Field Hockey nominee, was promoted to head coach at Division I La Salle University in Philadelphia on April 17. She becomes the second Skowhegan graduate to earn a Division I coaching job in the last year — Courtney Veinotte at Hofstra is the other.

Hancock was an assistant with the Explorers the last two seasons. She served as interim head coach since February, after former head coach Kelly Broadway stepped down.

“I feel like I’d sound cliche to say it’s a dream come true, but ever since I started coaching, this has been the dream and where I wanted to end up,” said the 27-year-old Hancock. “I was just lucky to have been at La Salle for the last two years and know the university, know the girls and most of the administration. We’ve got a new athletic director, who’s awesome since I’ve been here. So I was just lucky enough to have been here, know the ins and outs of the university.”

After finishing her playing career at Bryant College (Smithfield, Rhode Island) in 2013, Hancock spent two years as a graduate assistant at Providence College. In 2016, Hancock was hired as an assistant at Northeastern University in Boston when the Huskies made an appearance in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Hancock was originally hired as an assistant at La Salle in 2018, and has been a part of all phases of the program over the past two years, including recruiting, practice and game-day prep. She’s even serving as a contact for the program’s alumni group.

“Over the past two years, and specifically the last two months, MaKayla has demonstrated a tremendous dedication and commitment to our student-athletes,” La Salle athletic director Brian Baptiste said in an April 17 statement. “She is somebody who brings positive energy and enthusiasm to our department, and will empower the women on our team to grow as individuals on and off the field. We are excited to see what the future holds for our field hockey program under her leadership.”

MaKayla Hancock, who was a member of three Class A state title teams at Skowhegan, is the new head coach for Division I La Salle University in Philadelphia.                         Contributed photo/La Salle Athletics

Hancock credited former coaches who helped her along the way.

“(Becoming a head coach) definitely happened faster for me than for most,” Hancock said. “But I’m lucky to have been mentored and led by a lot of great coaches and people and that doesn’t stop because I’m a head coach. I definitely have questions and I lean on those people. I guess it kind of happened faster than I thought, but definitely excited about it for sure.”

Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty coached Hancock from 2006-2009. Hancock was a two-time captain and a three-year starter for Doughty. Skowhegan went 69-3 in her tenure, winning Class A titles from 2006-08. Skowhegan made it to the Class A final again in 2009, but fell 2-1 to Scarborough.

“From the time she was in high school, I always called her ‘Mamma Mak,'” Doughty said. “She had three other sisters (Mallory, Megan and Melissa) that all played at the same time, but she was Mamma Mak. In other words, she was the teammate that always had good advice.  She was always there to give you courage when you needed it, or a shoulder to cry on, or a hug.”

Hancock said she regularly calls Doughty, and recognizes lessons she learned from the Skowhegan program.

“I talk to Paula probably more than my mom,” Hancock joked. “She’s definitely still a huge part of my life. Her coaching style and her ability to care, but also foster a feeling of competitiveness of winning as not only the most important, but getting that group together to really foster that environment, I think she does and has always done a great job at that. I think the biggest thing she taught me was to coach everybody differently. You have to be able to change based on the different kids and student athletes that you have. She has a psychology background, and that’s kind of where she got me into that as well, where everybody is so different in how they learn and how they grow. I think that’s one of the biggest things she’s taught me. And also that winning is a mindset, winning is learned.”

“I love all my players, and in 45 years, there’s been a million players,” Doughty said. “Some of them are more like me, and I think you always relate to kids who are more like you, in terms of how you operate. Mak and I have always been there for each other. There’s been days where I’ve needed someone to talk to, and there’s been days she’s needed someone to talk to. She gives me advice, I give her advice. We’re good sounding boards for each other.”

After her high school career, Hancock played in 66 games at Bryant as a defender, and had her best season in 2013, scoring three goals and tallying nine points. She was a two-time captain for the Bulldogs, and was an All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Second Team selection in 2013.

Hancock hopes to turn around a program that is 15-21 over the last two seasons. The Explorers have had their share of struggles over the years. La Salle finished 7-11 last season and returns a young but talented team looking to get over the hump.

 

Skowhegan’s MaKayla Hancock reaches for the ball during a 2009 game against Cony. Hancock recently became head coach of Division I La Salle University in Philadelphia. Morning Sentinel file photo

“It’s a very young group for sure,” Hancock said. “But the older girls that we have returning, there’s great leadership. Our junior class and our senior class are players that have played a lot. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they step up and lead, not only through the summer time and this pandemic, but once we do come back, hopefully, in August. Our sophomore class, they played a huge role in our success last year, so I’m really looking forward to the majority of them hopping on the field immediately and having a huge role. Also, we have a great group of freshmen coming in from all over (Pennsylvania), New Jersey and then also internationally. I’m really looking forward to them coming in and they’re already training this summer with their (training) packets. So we’re really excited about that group for sure.”

Doughty said Hancock will be up to the challenge.

“MaKayla is strong in all the things you need to be a good coach,” Doughty said. “She’s a good communicator. She’s very focused on goals and providing a program to meet those goals. She understands human beings, which you need to do, because not everybody is the same. She knows how to work with different kinds of human beings based on who they are. She’s a great teacher.

“She’s as honest as can be, she doesn’t play games with people. She’s very direct in terms of what she expects and what she wants. I think she’s great at picking talent based on the team’s needs. She’s the whole package, I think she’s great.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer


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