We live in an age where Donald Sterlings and Lance Armstrongs often cloud the benefits of sports in the public eye. Alleged abuser and former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice gets ample coverage, while the dedicated, supportive coach usually goes unnoticed.
But, in the face of a tragedy in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, the importance and influence of a healthy player-coach relationship is coming to light. The former boys’ lacrosse coach, Doug Maynard, was beloved by his team and community. He died suddenly in November.
“The news that he had passed crushed me, and I have struggled to enjoy the game of lacrosse ever since.”
Evan Ruderman, a current captain of the Hawks, was a player under Maynard, who coached the Hawks to an 80-32 record during his tenure. His comments reflect a collective sense of shock and grief felt throughout the New Hampshire lacrosse community over the past six months.
By every measure, Maynard was a successful coach, leading Hopkinton to a state championship in 2011 and a 17-1 record in 2013. A former All-American at Wesleyan, Maynard was known for his infectious smile and passion for the game. He would say he wanted his kids to win, but not at all costs.
According to his players, Doug Maynard was an outstanding coach, Hopkinton’s own Bill Belichick, without the icy demeanor.
“Coach was a father figure. Someone you could go to in a time of need, someone who looked after you and truly cared about you. He was my lacrosse father, and to be honest, he still is,” says James McCluskey, current Hawks co-captain.
Both Ruderman and McCluskey say they could talk about Maynard for days.
“You could write a book about the man, his jovial smile, his genuine kindness, his dedication to Hopkinton lacrosse,” says Ruderman, “He was a man that no number of words can do justice.”
This year, the Hawks got a new coach, Michael Couture. Couture has extensive credentials, having played at Plymouth State and coached in Manchester, Bedford and Trinity High School. He has also been a referee for ten years.
The transition, both Ruderman and McCluskey agree, has been tough, but they admit it hasn’t been for a lack of effort from Couture. Couture is a good coach they say, they are just struggling to move past Maynard’s legacy.
Related: The Concord Monitor's profile of Coach Maynard and the legacy he left behind.
“The hardest part about the transition is closure. Every time I step on the field I ask myself what Maynard would tell me to do?” says McCluskey.
For his part, Couture says he’s enjoyed his first year with the team.
“It has been an outstanding and excellent experience. Losing six seniors last year was tough, but we have a strong group of underclassmen that should have us back on top in the near future.”
Dr. Kate Hays, a sport psychologist with thirty years of experience, is not surprised by the team’s struggles this year. She says that coaches often take on the role of parental figures in player’s lives.
But while parent-child relationships are often complex, she explains, the player-coach relationship is appealingly straightforward.
“At a time when teens are developing their own sense of self, and the coach is focused on only one aspect of the teen’s being that is also highly important to the teen,” Hays says.
The relationship with their former coach is top of mind for these players, but Hays says that’s likely not the only complicating factor in helping them move on.
“The fact that the team members return to exactly the same locale will keep the issue ‘alive’ for them for a very long time.”
This Hawk’s season has not been as successful as the last. The team ended the regular season at 7-7. However, with All-State goalie Matt French minding the net, no team will want to face Couture’s Hawks come playoff time.
Only time will tell if the Hopkinton lacrosse community can move past the loss of Doug Maynard. For the young men he coached, his influence will no doubt live on.
Says Ruderman, “Hopkinton lacrosse is a community, a community built by Doug Maynard. We love him. We played and will continue to play, for him.”
After an inaugural alumni game, the Hopkinton lacrosse field will be named Maynard Field on June 15th.
Editor's note: NHPR Digital News intern Austin Cowan is a graduate of Hopkinton High School and a former Hawks lacrosse player. /RL