In most of its varsity sports programs, Ridgefield High School has had minor head-coaching turnover during the last decade.
Then there is field hockey.
Mostly due to career changes, job relocations or increased workloads, the program has seen quality head coaches come and go following short stays. The stats tell the story: When the Tigers begin their 2018 season this fall, they will have a new head coach for the seventh time in 10 years.
She is Jessica Smith, a former Division I player at Siena College, who takes over for Madeleine Hutchings. Hutchings, who coached Ridgefield the past two seasons, resigned in the spring after accepting a full-time job.
An All-State midfielder at Portsmouth (N.H.) High School, Smith went on to play for four years at Siena, serving as a captain during her senior season in 2013. After graduating in 2014, Smith worked briefly in Albany before getting transferred to Connecticut. While working from home last fall, Smith was a volunteer coach at Danbury High School.
“I fell back in love with field hockey and coaching,” said Smith. “I realized that field hockey was still a passion for me and that it didn’t have to end.”
When Danbury head coach Denise Brough mentioned that Ridgefield needed a new coach, Smith applied and got the job after meeting with Ridgefield High Athletic Director Dane Street.
“She interviewed very well, has playing experience at a high level and, despite not having the most extensive coaching experience, clearly possesses the personal qualities and understanding of the game needed to be an effective head coach,” said Street about Smith.
“As a former NCAA Division I player and captain at Siena College, Jessica comes to us with a wealth of field hockey knowledge, including the experience of playing with the 2007 (AAU) Junior Olympic team,” added Street. “She was a volunteer coach with the Danbury High program last fall, and I believe she has the characteristics to be a strong head coach for our program.”
Ridgefield went 10-7-1-1 in 2017, losing to Greenwich in the FCIAC quarterfinals and Cheshire in the second round of the state tournament. Many of last year’s top players have graduated, including leading scorer Katie Pieterse, an All-FCIAC first team and All-State second-team selection who is now playing at Yale.
“My goal is not to come in and change everything,” said Smith. “I had two head coaches and multiple assistants while I was at Siena, so I know how tough coaching changes can be on the players.
“I want to bring my field hockey knowledge to the program and build upon what is in place,” added Smith. “I’m hoping to help the girls improve their skills and make sure they are enjoying the sport.”