CAN­CER CAN’T KEEP COACH OFF SIDE­LINES

Perkins con­tin­ues fight­ing for Glas­ton­bury field hockey

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Sports - LORI RI­LEY lri­ley@courant.com

GLAS­TON­BURY — There was a chair on the side­lines for Mau­reen Perkins at the Glas­ton­bury-South Wind­sor field hockey game Wed­nes­day. It re­mained empty.

The game was close. No one scored in reg­u­la­tion, though Glas­ton­bury had plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties and plenty of shots.

Perkins was on her feet. She stood next to in­terim coach Kris Cofiell, who is nor­mally Perkins’ as­sis­tant but has taken over this sea­son af­ter Perkins was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in her throat and neck in May.

“Some­times she sits,” Cofiell said. “Some­times she doesn’t.”

“I sat a lot the other game,” Perkins said.

Perkins, in her 19th sea­son as field hockey coach at Glas­ton­bury, is sup­posed to be tak­ing it easy. But her team had nine shots on goal in the first half and did not score. The coach needed to coach.

It’s been a tough year for the Tom­a­hawks — the No. 1 seed in the Class L tour­na­ment two

years ago, a team that won 14 games last year, the Class L co-cham­pion with Darien in 2014. De­spite re­turn­ing six starters, they lost four of their first six games and are 8-5-0-3. All but one of their losses are by one goal; three were in over­time.

“It started off rough be­cause we ob­vi­ously strug­gled get­ting our vibe and jelling to­gether,” se­nior cap­tain Ali David said. “It’s been hard with­out (Perkins) be­ing here 100 per­cent of the time. It’s forced us to come to­gether as a team.

“We knew she was strong and she was go­ing to kick it in the butt. I know it’s hard on her to be here but she does it for us and that means a lot.”

Teams coached by Perkins, whose record is 250-64-27-12, have av­er­aged 13 wins a sea­son.

“It’s a mix for me: At times it’s re­ally frus­trat­ing be­cause I’m lim­ited in terms of what I can do, and I feel a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity for this,” Perkins said. “But be­ing here, it’s so im­por­tant to me, it’s such a part of who I am and what I am, and to be with the kids ev­ery day is just some­thing I needed.”

Perkins, 47, teaches his­tory at the high school. This fall, she has worked half-days, goes home and eats, rests and then re­turns for an hour of prac­tice, or for a game. She feels pretty good, con­sid­er­ing she went through ra­di­a­tion and chemo this sum­mer that muted her taste buds, and now ev­ery­thing tastes hor­ri­ble. It’s hard for her to swal­low. She’s lost 30 pounds.

She had to talk her doc­tor into let­ting her coach.

“But he’s seen me, and he’s seen that this is what I needed as part of my re­cov­ery,” she said.

“Here’s the thing: It’s fall, so you’re sup­posed to be at field hockey prac­tice and games, like six days a week. When I’m sitting home, wait­ing to come to prac­tice, I’m just antsy.

I’m like, ‘OK, it’s 2:30 so they’re start­ing to stretch.’ Or, ‘It’s 3 o’clock so the warmup should be done.’ I can’t imag­ine not do­ing it.”

Cofiell has been her as­sis­tant for 11 years; she has been Cofiell’s as­sis­tant in lacrosse for four years. They know each other well.

“We’ve worked to­gether on ev­ery­thing — all the prac­tices are planned to­gether, ev­ery game de­ci­sion is made to­gether,” Cofiell said. “That’s sort of how it was be­fore this sea­son. Mau­reen has al­ways been some­body who’s al­lowed me to have my voice. So it made this year not be such a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. It’s just been her ab­sence at times, it’s tough.”

Glas­ton­bury lost 1-0 Wed­nes­day in over­time. Both Cofiell and Perkins hate to lose. Still, they were laugh­ing at each other, not too long af­ter the game.

“We laugh about the fact that if we’d known each other in high school, we would have hated each other,” Cofiell said.

“Def­i­nitely not been friends,” Perkins said.

“I would have been the kid who was bounc­ing all over the place,” Cofiell said, “and she would have been like, ‘Can you just be se­ri­ous for a minute?’ ”

But Cofiell added, “Both of us want a lot and ex­pect a lot from our play­ers. We ex­pect them to work hard.”

Perkins, who will find out how she is pro­gress­ing on Mon­day af­ter some test­ing last week, is more pa­tient these days. She is ap­pre­cia­tive of what she has.

“I know how lucky I am, to have all these peo­ple around me,” she said. “I try to be a lit­tle more understanding. Maybe a lit­tle gen­tler. Not to­tally, but I’m work­ing on it.”

Cofiell calls her “The Cac­tus.”

“I’m still a lit­tle prickly,” Perkins said. “On the out­side. I’m work­ing on it. A lit­tle more del­i­cate maybe.”

“She keeps try­ing to play the can­cer card,” Cofiell said, “like ‘I’m re­ally a del­i­cate flower now.’ I’m like, ‘You’re a cac­tus, get over it.’ We don’t cut each other much slack on stuff. But if you can’t laugh, then all you do is have the sor­ries.”

“We’re not go­ing to have the sor­ries,” Perkins said.

“We can’t have the sor­ries,” Cofiell said.

Perkins: “We don’t let our kids have the sor­ries for any­thing. So I’m not hav­ing the sor­ries, ei­ther. You fight, you do what you need to do …”

Cofiell: “And you fig­ure it out.”

“You fig­ure it out,” Perkins said. “And you move on.”

CLOE POISSON/HART­FORD COURANT

Glas­ton­bury field hockey coach Mau­reen Perkins, cen­ter, talks with her team dur­ing half­time against South Wind­sor on Wed­nes­day at Glas­ton­bury High School. Perkins was di­ag­nosed with neck and throat can­cer in the spring. Her as­sis­tant Kris Cofiell, left, took over the team on an in­terim ba­sis, and Perkins has been to ev­ery prac­tice and game but with lim­i­ta­tions. She re­turned to coach­ing part time af­ter treat­ment.

CLOE POISSON/ HART­FORD COURANT

Glas­ton­bury field hockey coach Mau­reen Perkins

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