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Former goalie Tapley steps up to coach Woodstock field hockey

  • Head coach Leanne Tapley, center, gives goalkeeping tips to Audrey Emery, right, during a field hockey practice at Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Thursday, August 19, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Claudia Shoemaker, left, and Megan Tarleton vie for control of the ball during a field hockey practice at Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Thursday, August 19, 2021.(Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America — Alex Driehaus

  • From left, Laura Audsley, Charley Crowley and Alice Cayer do a conditioning exercise at the beginning of a field hockey practice at Woodstock High School in Woodstock, Vt., on Thursday, August 19, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/20/2021 9:06:21 PM
Modified: 8/24/2021 4:58:48 PM

WOODSTOCK — Leanne Tapley began her tenure as Woodstock Union High head field hockey coach by writing a quote on the locker room whiteboard.

Tapley, née Jillson, played goalie for Woodstock in the late 1990s. She won a Vermont Principals Association state title with the Wasps in 1997 as a junior. She knows getting the program back to its championship pedigree for the first time since 2007 won’t be easy. But she has her sights set.

“The road to the championship on Nov. 6 — we can’t think of anything less,” Tapley said. “I put a quote up on the board ... that says ‘We can do hard things,’ because everyone can do hard things. That’s my hope.”

She inherits a program that went 5-3-1 in 2020, including one Division II playoff win and a semifinal loss. The Wasps haven’t been to the final since 2016.

Tapley has big shoes to fill in her new role. She takes over for Wendy Wannop after 21 seasons coaching Woodstock across two stints.

Tapley served as Woodstock girls ice hockey head coach from 2008 to 2010, and spent the last three years coaching Woodstock Middle’s field hockey team but had no prior field hockey coaching experience before that.

She said she hadn’t touched a field hockey stick in 20 years when Wannop asked if she’d lead the middle school team, but she was able to get back into the game with little difficulty.

After graduating from Woodstock in 1998, she earned a Bachelor of Science in small business and marketing from the University of Vermont in 2002. She then graduated from the Utah College of Massage Therapy in 2005 and opened her own practice in Woodstock in 2006. Tapley later obtained a Master of Science in sport and fitness administration/management from Southern New Hampshire University in 2010.

While working with the younger Wasps, she built relationships coaching a majority of the roster she’s now tasked with leading again. Tapley said she coached everyone on the current varsity team in middle school except for the seniors.

That rapport, along with her familiarity with Woodstock, gave her a head start going into her first year on the job. She still went through the interview process when the position came open in the spring, and Wasps athletic director Jack Boymer said it was not a foregone conclusion Tapley would be the choice. But he said she proved to be the best candidate during the process. The hire became official in late May.

“It’s great to have alumni step in, come back and pick up coaching roles back at their alma mater,” Boymer said. “I don’t know if it was necessarily a factor in hiring her, but it’s always helpful when you already know the lay of the land and the culture. So she already had a step up in that direction.”

The Wasps held their first practice for the 2021 season Thursday. It didn’t take long for Tapley to lean on her playing experience while coaching.

At one point, before beginning a drill, she warned her athletes to never shoot at the goalie when she isn’t ready. Tapley said a shot hitting their teammate in the back and causing injury would be a worst-case scenario and added that she knew firsthand as she used to play goalie.

Tapley’s first practice at the helm was challenging. Rain throughout the day and a murky forecast made the location of practice — inside or outside — a last-second decision. The team ended up outdoors, playing through some light rain to avoid training indoors with masks on.

She credited her players for pushing through the conditions.

“The girls have a lot of great energy, and they were excited to be back out here,” Tapley said. “I thought that they had fun. Hopefully we got a lot of the excitement and jitters out that first day, and now we can move on and have a plan going forward.”

Boymer was drawn to Tapley’s passion for field hockey. He said that she wants what’s best for the sport — not only for her varsity team but down to the youth levels as well, which he feels is important.

Tapley didn’t need to establish her expectations at the beginning of Thursday’s practice, as she’d made those clear during their team meeting in June. But she said the kids found some of the fitness segments of Thursday’s practice to be more taxing than they anticipated, based on Tapley’s middle school practices.

Tapley said her coaching style treads the line between fun and serious. She wants the athletes to have fun and learn the game but to be fully attentive and committed on the field. But while Tapley’s primary goal for 2021 is lifting a trophy, she said there are several ways her first season with the Wasps could be successful.

“Winning a championship, and proving to these girls that they can work hard and work hard is gonna pay off in the end” would be rewarding, Tapley said. “But as long as they’re having fun and learning the game, that’s really what’s important to me. (And) creating friendships and relationships that they can bring with them into life.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.

Correction

Leanne Tapley was the Woodstock girls ice hockey head coach from 2008 to 2010. Her coaching experience was incorrectly described in an earlier version of this story.

 




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