SAMANTHA DIAMOND was recently hired to replace longtime girls varsity lacrosse coach Sam Chard at Mt. Ararat High School. Diamond is in her second year on staff as a physical education teacher.

SAMANTHA DIAMOND was recently hired to replace longtime girls varsity lacrosse coach Sam Chard at Mt. Ararat High School. Diamond is in her second year on staff as a physical education teacher.

TOPSHAM

Replacing a longtime coach is always going to be tough. In the case of Mt. Ararat High School and Sam Chard, you’ve got a coach that was at the helm of the varsity girls lacrosse team for over a decade.

When someone like Chard, who was also the varsity girls soccer coach for 22 years, steps down, it’s sometimes unexpected and difficult on the athletic director.

One way to make it easier is to hire someone within the school. Bring someone in that knows a lot of the players as students and already has relationships in place. Someone with the right background that will make the transition as seamless as possible.

Samantha Diamond fits that role.

Been there, coached that

Diamond’s coaching career started over six years ago in New Jersey. After graduating from the perennial lacrosse powerhouse SUNY Cortland in New York, she began coaching freshmen and junior varsity lacrosse. Eventually, she was also an assistant coach on the varsity team.

She’s no stranger to the game.

I learned how to play as I got older,” Diamond said. I never got the opportunity to play in college because I played soccer in college. But I’ve been around the sport for a while. I went to a school that was a national champion in women’s and men’s lacrosse. Just had the opportunity to be around it.”

Diamond’s now in her second year at Mt. Ararat teaching Physical Education. Because she and Chard didn’t cross paths very much, she’s relying heavily on her relationships with the players. She’s been around them, especially the underclassmen, and gotten to know a lot of the girls she’ll be teaching on the field.

I’ve had a lot of these girls in class before. Ever since I came to Mt. Ararat, the kids see a new face and they’re kind of excited. A lot of the girls have been asking me from day one because Phys Ed and coaching go hand-in-hand in a lot of kids’ eyes.”

When Chard decided to step away, many of the players approached Diamond about the new opening. “”You’re going to coach, right?” She told them she’d apply and here we are.

For both Diamond and her players, the familiarity and comfort level will go a long way.

I think it makes it easier because we already know each other, at least on the surface. How I’m going to coach is going to be different than how I am in class and I think that there’s going to be a sense of adjustment for everybody, but it’s kind of nice for them.

It’s exciting because the girls can come to me during the day and sayhey coach I need this,’ ordo you have this?’ It kind of keeps it open.”

On the field

Another benefit of knowing a lot of the players already involves recruiting. Like any season, there will be some holes to fill and some new players that will have to step up. When they do, more holes will open. Diamond knows that, especially as a first-year coach, keeping the numbers up in the program is important.

At school and in the classroom, she can work together with her more experienced players and convince some new girls to come out and try lacrosse.

The more the merrier.

We’re all just kind of excited that we can get kids within the school that maybe haven’t played or they’re on the fence.”

Diamond expects close to 40 girls to come out for tryouts in the coming weeks. Of those she’s looking to keep 18-20 on the varsity roster. One of the biggest things she learned in her time coaching in New Jersey is that everyone in the program should be involved.

She won’t let players sit on the bench all season and she’ll have plenty of swing players.

I think it’s important for everybody to have a role in the program, top to bottom. Realizing that your role can change throughout the season, but making sure that girls understand that they’re there for a reason. Everybody is in it together one way or the other.”

As far as the quality of the lacrosse goes, Diamond recognizes the type of situation she’s taking over. Over the last 10 years under Chard, the Eagles have posted an 88-40 regular season record and have only finished with a losing record one time (last season). Chard led multiple playoff runs and kept it up year after year.

Diamond said it would be a mistake to throw all that out the window.

I’m not looking change everything Sam has done. He’s been here forever and he’s done some really powerful things throughout the years. We’re going to kind of piggyback what he had in place and change some things based on our clientele. We’re going to kind of hit the ground running.”

At a meeting earlier this week, where Diamond passed out schedules and discussed practice times, she pulled the seniors aside at the end and told them “It’s not going to be my way or the highway.” They’re going to work on what Chard had in place and simultaneously work on “what’s best for the program moving forward”

One of those seniors, Isa Blessington, will be one of Diamond’s go-to attackers. They’ve talked lots of lacrosse over the past year and Blessington will be “at the helm of things.” Magan Thomas-Copeland, another senior, and Rebecca French, a defender, will also have big roles on the team.

These returning starters and some promising sophomores like Zoe Pinkham and Maddie Horrocks have left Diamond pretty excited for the upcoming season.

In fact, excitement seems to be the theme around Mt. Ararat girls lacrosse right now. In Chard, the Eagles lose a longtime leader and a face of the program, but it’s now a new era. In her first season, Diamond simply wants to get on the map.

She thinks the program will be back to its winning ways very quickly.

I want to establish ourselves. Through the years, we’ve had a pretty consistently good program. It’s been up, it’s been down, but never really down and out fortunately.

With the athleticism we have coming back and some of the girls that will be trying the sport out for the first time, we can all bring it together and make it one.”

Mt. Ararat opens its season at home on April 24 against “Battle of the Bridge” rival Brunswick at 5 p.m.


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