Salem High School field hockey coach Donna O'Leary nearing 200 win
Donna O’Leary took over as the Salem High School field hockey coach 25 years ago.
When she first started coaching, she set some lofty goals for herself. She wanted to win championships and put up an impressive wins total in the process. With that thinking, the number 200 popped into her head.
After the Rams finished last season 11-6-1, O’Leary spent the summer thinking about her career win total — 198.
She just missed getting the milestone, and hopes to get it out of the way quickly as the Rams look to compete in 2012.
“I want to get it done 1-2 right away and get it over with,” O’Leary said. “Just for me because I set personal goals years ago and I always wanted to win Group I and it never happened. Came close, just wasn’t able to put it together. (Two hundred wins) was on my bucket list.
“For a team like mine, so many of the girls going sport to sport and very few that specialize, to me this is a big accomplishment.”
But there are some things that are more important than wins.
The growth and maturity of her players off the field is just as important to O’Leary as how the girls play on the field, if not more important.
O’Leary refers to it as learning “the game of life,” — learning right and wrong, manners, how to stay positive, how to help those around you and just be an all-around good person.
“We’re playing a game on the field, but the qualities you need to play that game carry over in life,” she said. “The friendships that you make in field hockey you keep your entire life.”
Those continuing relationships aren’t something that just the players share, it is something that O’Leary also takes part in.
And being so close to a milestone victory, a lot of her former players have made sure to keep in contact with her as much as possible.
“(They are) on Facebook with me all the time,” O’Leary said. “They all knew (about the milestone) because of last year. The nine that graduated all know and want me to keep them posted. I would like to do it at home, but I’ll take it whenever we can get it.”
Thinking that she was going to reach the milestone last season, O’Leary contemplated making it her last season coaching. But falling two wins short of her goal wasn’t an option.
But with No. 200 being all but guaranteed, that option seems to be creeping in to the forefront.
“I’m coming close (to retiring) just because I’m needed at home, I have eight grandkids,” she said. “I didn’t put papers in (yet). Teaching-wise I’m coming real close. If I stay on and coach after I retire (from teaching), that would be nice. But like I said, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m doing, I’m just doing the best that I can.”
And to this point, her best has been very successful.