CANCER CAN’T KEEP COACH OFF SIDELINES
Perkins continues fighting for Glastonbury field hockey
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.”
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.
Glastonbury field hockey coach Maureen Perkins