Brighton has won three straight Section V Class B field hockey championships and reached the state semifinals each time.
The Barons achieved that lofty status again this season despite graduating 15 seniors last spring, eight of whom played this fall in college. But Sean Metz says winning isn’t the most gratifying part of coaching the Barons.
Reading an e-mail from a player that reads, “Coach, I got in!” to the college she wanted — that’s the best, the sixth-year coach says. The 37-year-old science teacher is the next winner of the Coaches Who Care Award, a joint initiative between the Democrat and Chronicle and Compeer Rochester.
Series: Coaches Who Care
“Just seeing (players) succeed, knowing how much work they’ve put in and knowing I’ve had a small role in that,” Metz says, explaining what’s most satisfying about the job, one he never envisioned doing a decade ago.
Up next for Brighton (14-5) is a 5:30 p.m. state semifinal at Maine-Endwell High School near Binghamton on Saturday. The Barons have a daunting task. They play six-time defending state champion Lakeland of Section I. It’s a rematch of the 2013 title game, which Brighton lost 7-0. The Barons were beaten in last year’s semis by Garden City.
“Honestly, I think this whole season has been us proving ourselves wrong,” said senior midfielder Katie Cox, a fourth-year player and team captain. “We really thought that we wouldn’t make it far in sectionals. It’s still kind of surreal that we’re going to states.”
Classmate Catherine Hauser, another midfielder and team captain, credits Metz for that.
“I honestly think Metz is why that happened,” the fourth-year player says about a team being able to have success despite such massive graduation losses. “He’s the one that always gets people interested. He starts from modified and there’s clinics over the winter and there’s stuff over the summer and he got us into cross-fit and we all do that.
“It’s just, like, insane. All of us lift all the time. I think that’s definitely what helped us have a lot of our success.”
Obviously, Metz never played field hockey. He coached boys and girls lacrosse at Brighton. But then Barons athletic director Fritz Kilian approached him about the junior-varsity field hockey job.
“I took a few days to make a decision because I knew I’d be new at the game,” Metz says. “But I spent some time doing research … I’ve been passionate about it ever since.”
His 2013 squad ended the Barons’ 14-year sectional championship drought and Metz was named All-Greater Rochester Coach of the Year.
“When Sean took over our program, he worked extremely hard to change the culture and promote excitement, enthusiasm and successful play within the sport,” Kilian says.
Metz didn’t just learn the sport by coaching for a few months each fall with Brighton. He immersed himself in it, reading about it and watching it.
“I’ve spent some time trying to coach in the club systems just to learn the game a little bit better,” says Metz, a husband to Sara and father to daughter Tobin, 4, and son Ryder, who turns 2 this week.
“The students see my passion and I think that’s what translates. They know that I’m committed … (they’ve) been matching my commitment and exceeding it in most cases. I’ve been really lucky.”
There’s plenty of depth and balance on this year’s team. Junior Ella Charlesworth, one of four key returnees with Hauser, Cox and Eileen Norris, leads the team with 18 goals and seven assists. Sophomores Gianna Palma (11 goals/4 assists) and Annie Case (10/5) and freshman Erin Wool (10/3) have played big on offense and back Hannah Nusbaum has made nine saves on defense. Cox has six assists and Hauser has three goals and five assists.
Hauser, who Metz nicknamed “Doogie,” has verbally committed to play at the University of Rochester, which qualified for this week’s NCAA Tournament.
“He’ll talk about having heart and having drive and putting in 100 percent of yourself into everything that you do,” Cox says. “That’s definitely something I’m going to take with me past high school.”
Hearing advice on life, even when the team huddles during a game, isn’t uncommon.
“You learn so much from (playing),” Hauser says. “You learn teamwork and you learn that this is an opportunity you don’t normally have. (Metz) constantly reminds us how amazing it is to have a group of people that all want to do the same thing and work for it and then what it happens, it’s just amazing.”
About this award
The Coaches Who Care Award recognizes individuals who’ve shown a commitment to players that goes beyond only developing a winning team. Eligible coaches must work at local high schools at the modified, junior-varsity or varsity level. E-mail nominations to JDIVERON@Gannett.com. Please cite specific examples in your nomination.