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Back in the game

  • Hanover girls lacrosse Head Coach Sarah Martin, second from right, laughs with her assistants, from left, Lindsay Fox, Kelsey Redpath, and Hannah Haskell, right, during their practice in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Martin took the coaching position in 2020, but the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sarah Martin gathers her team during a break in Hanover girls lacrosse tryouts in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover girls lacrosse Head Coach Sarah Martin works with Lily Colberg, 16, during tryouts for the team in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The coronavirus pandemic prevented Martin from coaching her first season with the team in 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2021 11:00:20 PM
Modified: 4/1/2021 11:00:16 PM

Shortly after Sarah Martin took the head girls lacrosse coach job at Hanover High, high school sports imploded.

Martin signed on to lead the Marauders in early March 2020, just weeks before schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The season was canceled, and Martin had to adapt.

Over a year later, she stepped on the turf for the first time as head coach on Monday. She and her team entered tryouts for the 2021 season with a new perspective.

“Last year prepared us to appreciate having sticks in our hands a little bit more and to truly make the most of every day,” Martin said.

Martin, a former Dartmouth women’s lacrosse assistant who most recently coached at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, opened tryouts by expressing her excitement for the upcoming season and acknowledging the difficulty of the last year. She preached that enhanced perspective, and the team embodied it.

“I was eager to see how the team was going to respond, and they absolutely responded as I would have wanted them to,” Martin said. “I’m looking at 30 kids who have been locked down in high school wearing masks all last year, and they were just so excited to be there. (They were) eager, looking at me, good eye contact. When I asked them to do one thing, they’d do it; they were running hard.”

The pandemic-altered year presented challenges for a new coach. Martin had to build relationships with her athletes over Zoom instead of face-to-face, and last year’s roster featured a large group of graduating seniors.

Early on last year, Martin met with her seniors and her four team captains to get their input on how they wanted the virtual experience to be. She asked how much they wanted to do, how often the coaching staff should engage with the team and how much training they wanted to do. As a brand-new coach, she didn’t want to impose a strict workout regimen when so much uncertainty dominated the kids’ lives early in the pandemic.

“I really trusted those seniors and particularly those captains to help me, and they were wonderful,” Martin said. “We put them into small groups to sort of create little families, and they would try and do things over Zoom. They’d share workouts; they’d share stickwork routines. I think I gave them a T-shirt challenge, where everybody had to make a T-shirt. So those are some of the small examples.”

Hanover athletic director Megan Sobel was pleased with the way Martin and her staff handled virtually coaching and engaging the kids.

“It was a challenge, for sure,” Sobel said. “And I think because she hadn’t even had the opportunity to step on the field, it was a bigger challenge for her because she didn’t know the kids. So I think that made it really hard. I think the coaching staff did a really good job of trying to pull them together on Zoom and trying to do some team stuff in really difficult times.”

If the 2020 season occurred normally, Martin would’ve had minimal time to prepare, as she was hired just weeks before the season was scheduled to begin. While she and the program lost the year of on-field experience, the year spent forming relationships and bonds with her athletes has prepared Martin for the upcoming season in another way.

“Last year, we didn’t do a ton of Xs and Os and teaching lacrosse,” Martin said. “It was much more the parts of supporting the kids and listening to them about what they needed, letting them form relationships with their teammates and making sure they knew they had a good safe place to come and hang out.”

That time was equally important for the kids.

“Anytime you have a coaching change, it’s a challenge for the kids,” Sobel said. “So I think having that time to sort of wrap their heads around it, be excited and get to know her and her communication style and her expectations versus just jumping into the season, I think that was definitely a benefit for the program.”

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




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