Longtime Woodstock Field Hockey Coach Calls It a Career
Wendy Wannop coaches the Woodstock High field hockey team during a September 2011 gameagainst Burr & Burton at Kimball Union Academy's Pope Field. Wannop announced her retirement from the Wasps' program yesterday after 30 years as an official and coach.
Valley News file photograph -- Greg Fennell
Woodstock — Few things will usually keep Wendy Wannop from coaching field hockey at any point in the last three decades, but she thinks she’s found one: grandchildren.
Wannop, who spent three decades in a variety of capacities with the Woodstock High field hockey program — including the last 18 as head varsity coach — announced her retirement yesterday. A one-time player at the University of Massachusetts, Wannop started as a game official in Woodstock in 1980, moved up to middle school coach and succeeded Yvonne Frates as head coach following the Vermont Principals Association hall-of-famer’s retirement in 1994. Wannop-led squads won three VPA state championships and made the finals on four other occasions.
In a phone interview yesterday, Wannop said the imminent arrival of three new grandkids — to daughter Melissa, and sons Bobby and Brian — hastened the decision. With another son, Jeff, attending Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Wannop’s family is now close by, making doting grandmother a more enticing role than that of winning field hockey coach.
“Melissa and her husband are expecting in February, Bobby and his wife are expecting in May, and we recently found out that Brian and his wife are having their second in July, so I sort of thought the time was right,” Wannop said. “They all live in New England. It was time to enjoy it and say, ‘Yes, I can come and help.’ I’d love to be able to do that.”
Wannop retires with a career record of 198-74-16. Only one of her teams failed to reach the .500 mark.
She also departs having left an impression with an upbeat attitude that trickled down to the players she coached.
“She’s really nice, really energetic,” said forward Blake Wardwell — now a junior on the Castleton State College field hockey team – following a Woodstock state tournament win in 2009. “She’s always in a very good mood, and she always brings that to the field. That helps us.”
That Wannop and her Cornell-educated husband, John, have been able to settle in Woodstock for 33 years is somewhat ironic, given his career in the hospitality industry and how it sent them all over the globe in the early years of their relationship.
The two met while working at the Lookout Hotel in Ogunquit, Maine, she said, and together they worked in such locales as the British Virgin Islands, New York City, the Grand Tetons and Hawaii, where Melissa was born. Three months later, John accepted a job offer at the Woodstock Inn and Resort, where he has been ever since.
“We’re New Englanders, so when we came to Vermont, it was like coming home,” said Wannop, who grew up in Townsend, Mass., near Nashua, N.H. “We’d both grown up in Massachusetts, and both of our mothers are from Vermont. It’s a funny piece, because we didn’t meet until college.”
Settling in Woodstock allowed Wannop to reconnect with field hockey, which she played as a young girl and continued at UMass, which was a small Division III team when she entered as a freshman in 1969, “certainly not the powerhouse it is today,” she added.
Wannop started as a game official, moving over to coach the middle school program a couple of years later. She stepped up to the Wasps when Frates retired, and the team didn’t skip a beat in the transition.
Her coaching tenure included two undefeated VPA state championships. The Wasps went 15-0-1 to win the Division III championship in 1997, topping that with a perfect 16-0-0 campaign that was capped by a VPA Division II crown in 2007. Woodstock also won the D-III title in 2000 with a 13-4-0 mark.
The five-year stretch from 2007-11 proved to be Wannop’s most dominant, with the Wasps making the state finals in four of those seasons. Woodstock also won four of its eight Marble Valley League crowns under Wannop’s eye during that time.
The 2011 campaign was particularly noteworthy. The Wasps went 15-2-0, dropping a 1-0 decision in the D-II championship to Harwood to cap a season played on the road — save for two late-season home games — as Frates Field revived from Tropical Storm Irene-inflicted damage.
To Wannop, it was a memorable season “only in the sense that the girls didn’t let that affect their entire season,” she said. “It wasn’t important to them where we played. It was the matter of fact that we were still together. It was important to the girls with damage at home that they still have a field hockey game, a place to be and a focus to play field hockey.
“We certainly rallied and did what we had to do on small pieces of grass, and it worked. They just rolled with the punches.”
Wannop’s final team went 8-7-0, falling to Mount Abraham in an overtime quarterfinal. Her Woodstock time also included a seven-year stint as athletic director, ending in 2009.
“When we moved here in 1980, we didn’t dream of being here 33 years later,” she confessed. “For us to have been able to have the stability and raise the kids here, I can’t think of a better place. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to stay here.”
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.