By Kevin J. Stone, Contributing writer
GRAFTON – Grafton High School (GHS) track coach Sarah Mealy found herself in a position earlier this winter where instinct meant more than any previous training she had had before this time where she was.
When the Grafton / BVT men’s hockey team were playing against the Milford / Hopedale co-op team, Milford / Hopedale player Aiden Collins suffered an opponent’s skate on his wrist.
Having played hockey herself as a child, Mealy knew time was running out when she saw the injury happen.
“Based on my background as a hockey athlete, when you see something like that, you go there,” Mealy said in a recent phone interview.
She was one of many who rushed to Collins’ side to respond to what her father recently told the Worcester Telegram was a fatal injury.
The sports coach takes a unique path to the role
Mealy is only 26 years old and in his fourth year at GHS. But she’s already showing that she’s one of the best in the state at what she does.
Mealy grew up in King Philip Regional High School, playing hockey, field hockey and lacrosse before going to UConn.
While there, Mealy gained invaluable experience working with the women’s basketball team, which made her fall in love with being a sports coach even more than she ever did. .
Prior to that, however, his initial introduction to the field was somewhat different from most.
“When I was younger there was all of this functionality on the Celtics coach in the Boston Globe,” she explained. “There was a picture of him on the pitch with a player of course and I had never seen anything like it. I thought it was the coolest thing that you can grow up and help athletes in such a big capacity.
After seeing this article, and after playing “what looked like any sport” growing up, Mealy said she thought about it and came to the conclusion that she should pursue a career in the game. athletic training.
“It was a bit obvious to find yourself in this position,” she said.
Mealy was on the proverbial big stage with UConn’s women’s basketball team.
From there, however, she realized that she preferred to work in a high school setting.
“To be completely honest it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I was obviously extremely lucky to have this experience. But I come from a very small town and it was a bit of a shock to the system to be in a strong and professional position at this high level.
She gained experience in high school and said she felt she could communicate well with athletes in this age group.
She said she appreciates the opportunity to be a liaison between coaches, guidance counselors, parents and doctors in her role as a sports coach.
“It’s a huge communication spider web that has to happen and I think my personal skills and my personality are a better match,” she said. “At this university level, I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve seen who have been somehow forced to quit or forced to transfer because they weren’t performing for one reason or another and that was a little hard for me. “
The sports coach adapts to changing demands
Mealy said she has seen her job description change over time, adapting to now include a focus on student-athlete mental health.
Mealy embraced this, but said she wished there was more support for the type of work she does.
She said incidents like Aiden Collins’ skate cut underscore this need.
“Our country is doing an incredible job with tutoring, we have guidance counselors and all those advisers needed for all the tutoring, but there isn’t a lot of emphasis on the sports side that baffles me,” she declared.
“We place such great importance on the value of sport at all levels – youth, high school, club, college, professional and so on. – but it’s crazy for me that we don’t give the same value to a role which to watch these athletes at all levels, ”she added.