AN APPRECIATION

Barb Major, head coach, Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Barb Major has been a multimedia person before the word ever came into popular usage. Her flame-red hair is the visual, and her strong voice is the audio.

"Where are my forwards?" "Don't stand and watch!"

For three decades, Barb Major has been a stalwart coach at Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.), preaching the gospel of field hockey to players who had never picked up a stick before the ninth grade.

As such, Major has taken countless groups of young women -- experienced or otherwise -- and has gotten more out of them than just about any other scholastic coach in the country.

Even as other girls' sports at the Roman Catholic school outside of Trenton, N.J. have overtaken field hockey in general popularity, she has consistently gone to work, year after year, training her players in a difficult game, and almost willing them to that "next level."

Some years have been leaner than others. Several times since the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame made it to the state semifinals in 1995, the team did not make the state tournament because they did not have the necessary .500 record by the cutoff date.

But in 1999, the team began the season with a 7-0-1 record. It would appear that the 1999 season has become one of those rare times for Major when she could spend most of her coaching time on game strategy than teaching. In a 1996 interview, she confessed that there had only been three times in her first 28 years of coaching that she had been so confident in her players' skills that she could spend less time on the basics and more time on the finer points of the game.

On October 7, 1999, Major earned her 300th coaching victory with a 2-1 win over Princeton Junction West Windsor-Plainsboro (N.J.). True to the tradition of Irish hockey, a pair of seniors -- Julia Rosidivito and Stefanie Doyle -- combined for the winning goal.

It represented the Major way: load your team with seniors if possible, since -- according to Jim Davis' Rule No. 2 -- there is no substitute for experience.

Perhaps this goes for the coach, too.

"I still love this," Major told the assmbled media after the game. "I love the relationship with the girls and I've been fortunate enough to have some talented players throughout the years."

These kinds of memories are legion for her. If you are lucky to be able to spend time after the annual Central Jersey Field Hockey Association banquet, Major and several of the Mercer-area coaches will assemble at a nearby restaurant or at the hotel bar and swap stories.

The group varies from year to year, but the talk is great, especially from Major, who regales those around her with tales from the field hockey wars of the 70s and 80s.

Her 300th win will undoubtedly become one of the stories she will tell about the 1990s.

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