AN APPRECIATION

Arlene Salvati, head coach, Cheshire (Conn.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

The scene was the hockey field at Brantford High School. The lights were coming on to battle the oncoming of the dusk. The shimmering green artificial turf, however, looked a little greener; the players a little faster; the goals a little bigger.

After all, the state championship game in Class L between Cheshire (Conn.) and Guilford, had gone into overtime.

Time was running out -- and in more ways than one.

You see, Cheshire field hockey coach Arlene Salvati had made it known that she would be retiring after the 2001 season. She would be taking a job as assistant principal at Hamden (Conn.), a few miles south on Route 10.

As she was standing on the sidelines, clad in the red and black which will forever be a part of her being, she stared at an angle as her top-seeded Rams earned a short corner in the 77th minute.

Salvati knew it could be the end; her team would be running her special stack play (it's called a "scramble" by the players) and it turned out to work perfectly.

Game over. Career over. The scoreboard read 2-1.

"I feel - I feel a great deal of pride," Salvati told the assembled media after the game. "I get emotional because I just love it so much. It's been something I've done for a long period of time. It's something that means a great deal to me. The players mean a great deal to me."

Apparently, the players feel the same way about their coach, who is retiring with 491 wins over 33 seasons.

"She told us to just play with our hearts and whoever wanted it more would come out with the victory," said Melissa Bowman, who scored the game-winning. "She never put that kind of pressure on us - 'It's my last game.' But we knew that she wanted it and it was important to her."

And that seems to be the essense of Salvati's career. No drama, no fanciness (except maybe for that last corner), and doing the best job possible.

"I get emotional because I love it so much," Salvati said. "But it's like anything that you do. You cannot do it forever. I've done this for 33 years and I've absolutely loved every minute of it."

You get the feeling the love will continue -- and, like others who have retired to take administrative positions in their school districts, Salvati will be around to ensure the betterment of the sport of which she has been a part for a third of a century -- about than twice the ages of the players she leaves behind.

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