AN APPRECIATION

Nancy Fowlkes, head coach, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Nancy Fowlkes took the job as head field hockey coach at Frank W. Cox High School in 1973 knowing that she would be compared to an extremely high standard.

The previous Cox coach, Emilie Tilley, had a 98-2-7 career record -- one that even a Sharon Pfluger, an Anson Dorrance, a Pat Summitt, a Dan Gable would envy.

If Tilley left big shoes to fill, Fowlkes made them even bigger.

Fowlkes, after winning 13 state championships, including a then-national record seven in a row, retired at the end of the 2001 season.

"'l miss it when I donŐt start again (in the fall of 2002)," Fowlkes told The Virginian-Pilot just before her 30th and final season at the helm of her beloved Falcons. "It will be hard to coach, not to look forward to the start of new things."

Cox had experienced a shuddering thud back to the middle of the Beach District pack in 2000 and 2001, but that is not the reason Fowlkes is retiring.

"It was time," she said at the opening of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Virginia Beach. "It just so happened that it was 30 years after I started."

Fowlkes is a coach who does not do anything fancy. Her players are hard workers, solid in fundamentals, very athletic.

Like many of the best in her profession, she is highly detail-oriented. She creates drills for every day of practice, and makes sure they fit within a precise time frame.

But attention to the smaller details help in taking care of the larger details -- namely, winning. The Falcons, for years, were the terror of the greater Hampton Roads area. The green jerseys of the varsity commanded as much respect in the American field hockey community as a green jacket to a golfer.

Cox, for years, set the standard for consistency in American field hockey. Most of the championship records held by American scholastic teams when it came to winning titles were held by the Virginia Beach school.

She developed players for college and beyond; her latest pride and joy, Kim Miller, made the 2001 U.S. team and played in front of Fowlkes and hundreds of Beach fans at the brand new Olympic Training Center.

Fowlkes finished her illustrious career with a 390-55-20 record. It could have been a much greater win total if she did not coach in a state that restricts the number of regular-season games to 12, but she is not a person who dwells on the mistakes or misfortunes of the past.

She only looks forward. Only in the fall of 2002, she will be on the sidelines as a fan, rather than as a head coach.

"You know, when people ask me when you feel most alive, I have to say thatŐs when I'm coaching," Fowlkes told The Virginian-Pilot. "I'll miss it when I don't start again."

So will we, Nancy.

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