Field Hockey Coach Calls it a Career After 23 Years
By Mike Sullivan
Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 24, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
When you love doing something enough, there's never really an ideal time to walk away. Linda Osborne, the Winnacunnet High School field hockey coach for 23 years strong, has come to that realization now that she's decided to retire.
"I've actually been thinking about it for a few years now," she said last week, doing something she rarely does - sitting at home relaxing. "You get to a point where you ask yourself, 'How much longer do I want to do this?' Groups of players come through and you think you're going to go out with them, but something pulls you back in. There isn't a perfect time to go."
It should be noted, though, that the concept of retirement doesn't pertain to Osborne the way it does to other mere mortals. Retirement won't include kicking back in a rocking chair and losing hours on end watching reruns of "The Bob Newhart Show." Retirement for Osborne means officiating high school field hockey and lacrosse games, and continuing in her position as a physical education teacher at Winnacunnet.
It also means watching more of her daughter Kaitlyn's track meets and soccer games, and perhaps staying involved with the Young Warriors field hockey feeder program.
None of that sounds very retiring at all. As for the idea of a comeback, she didn't rule one out down the road.
"I won't ever say never," she said with a smile. "I just don't know."
That's partially because none of this has sunk it just yet.
"It's with a lot of mixed emotions," she said. "I'm ready to not worry about fund-raising and planning the season, and things like that, so there's some sense of relief. But I don't think it will really hit me until August."
The transition will be strange not only for Osborne, but for her peers. M.J. Hippern, Osborne's assistant for 15 years prior to taking over as head coach of the Dover field hockey program this fall, is at the top of that list.
"Linda's a friend and a mentor," Hippern said. "When I moved to New Hampshire, she was the first person I met. If anyone ever asks, 'Do I miss Winnacunnet?' ... Sure, I miss the people there, but I miss Linda the most."
Mim Ryan, head field hockey coach at Timberlane, will miss the competition with Osborne.
"Linda's teams were always well-coached, highly-skilled and very competitive," said Ryan. "I always knew playing a Winnacunnet team, regardless of the number of returning players, it was going to be a battle."
The fact that those battles are over hasn't sunk in yet for Ryan.
"I know it will be very strange next season to look across and not see Linda there, encouraging and coaching her team. Class L has lost a wonderful coach who always put her kids first."
Sue Garneau, former head coach at Exeter, echoed Ryan's thoughts.
"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Linda's coaching style and program," Garneau said. And, she added with a laugh, "She was a role model for me, and I often stole her ideas and strategies. She doesn't know that."
Osborne's impact went beyond the Seacoast, too, as she made a positive impact on field hockey across the state.
"She was a solid contributor to the New Hampshire Field Hockey Coaches Association and the NHIAA field hockey committee, whose insight on various issues and topics were well-received and respected," Ryan said. "Linda is a dedicated, positive role model who always got the best out of her kids. It will be difficult to replace her."
Speaking of, there isn't one at this point, and it will not be Osborne's assistant coach, Zoe Copenhaver, who is walking away with Osborne.
"Because of what we've done, they'll want to bring someone solid in," Osborne said. "Field hockey coaches ... well, there aren't many out there. We aren't a dime a dozen. Hopefully, someone young comes in with a lot of energy."
As for, as Osborne said, "what we've done," the numbers are impressive. She was head coach from 1986 through 2009 with the exception of 1988, when she took the year off to work on her master's degree. The Warriors advanced to the state quarterfinals 20 times and the semifinals 10 times.
Winnacunnet won the Class L title in 1992, and lost in the championship game - in double-overtime, no less - in 1995. It's worth noting, too, that until 2000, only eight teams made the playoffs compared to the present format of 12.
Osborne's career record is 231-105-23. Take away those ties (everybody hates ties) and she's won 69 percent of her games.
Osborne is hard pressed to pinpoint a greatest moment - winning the Class L title in 1992 is right up there, though - but she does clearly recall a defining moment. It was 1990, and Winnacunnet was still growing as a program. Concord was the powerhouse, and they were playing for a home seed in the playoffs.
"We beat Concord, and it really felt like that was a turning point for the program," she said. "It changed perceptions. People took notice. We became recognized as a winning program and went on to the semifinals that year."
Osborne's husband, Richard "Ozzie" Osborne - not to be mistaken with the infamous rock star Ozzy Osbourne, but still a force to be reckoned with in his own right - recalled one memory that stood out after so many years of attending his wife's games and practices.
"I remember Linda jumping up and down after winning in 1992," Ozzie said. "It was probably the most emotion I've ever seen out of her." Whether they were there or not, that's an image that every coach and player touched by Linda Osborne can cherish.