Platt Tech alumni, athletes want sports complex named for long-time coach, athletic director

MILFORD — When Sue Murphy first started coaching softball at Platt Tech 33 years ago, she never imagined that her name would one day be on the school’s athletic fields.

But if a dedicated group of alumni, students and staff get their way, that’s exactly what will happen when the school dedicates its new athletic complex after construction of the new school building is complete.

A petition for the state to name the future sports complex and fields after Murphy, who has been the school’s athletic director for the past 29 years, has generated more than 1,100 signatures so far, according to Alumni Association President Anthony Paoletto.

“With the building of the new school and opening in a few months, we thought it would be great time to launch the petition so when the school is open, and they start to tear down the old one and build the new field, it would be named, in honor of Sue Murphy,” said Paoletto.

Principal David Telseca said several community members had asked them about the potential to name the gym or a field after Murphy.

“Murphy has been a phenomenal contributor to Platt Tech and the Milford community and a strong advocate for our students, and so I can’t think of a more appropriate person for that sort of honor,” he said. “In response to these requests, we are researching the process that would need to occur, given that we are a state facility, but don't have a specific answer at this time about what the steps in the process are.”

When she heard about the drive to name the sports complex after her, Murphy said she was humbled beyond belief.

“I have been so fortunate for 33 years. I get to coach and teach what I think are the best kids in the world,” she said. “I don’t really like the limelight or any of that stuff, but I’m honored they would even think of me. And really I’m the lucky one who gets to do something I love for all these years and have such great relationships and friendships over the years with so many great kids.”

Considering Murphy’s tenure as athletic director, it seems strange to think now that she turned the offer down at first and had to be talked into taking it.

“I had a wonderful principal back then, and I was going into her office to tell her I didn’t want the job, but she was such a great principal that somehow she convinced me,” Murphy said. “And 29 years later, I’m still doing it.”

The new Platt Tech High School will be finished and ready for students in April. Once it opens, workers will demolish the current building and athletic fields will eventually occupy the site. Telseca said fields would be completed during the 2022-23 school year.

Paoletto said the mixed sports complex, which will include football, baseball, softball, soccer and track, makes it a natural choice to name after Murphy.

“She has overseen the 18 different sports programs that they have every year,” said Paoletto. “And if you know anything about Sue Murphy, it is that she pours her heart and soul into everything that she does.”

Callie Sokoloski, Murphy’s eldest daughter, said Murphy is known as a tireless supporter of Platt’s student-athletes.

“I’ve seen her at home if it’s between sleep or making sure she gets a form to the right person so that a student can play in the game,” Sokoloski said. “She’s going to put the student first every single time. That’s always been how she is.”

During the 2007-08 school year, Paoletto said when students wanted a football team and state funding for a team was limited, Murphy led the fundraising efforts and made the arrangements for the school’s inaugural team.

“Sue has always been a track and field and softball person, but it wasn’t about what sport Sue likes. It’s always been about what the kids want and what the students want,” said Paoletto. “She will always go out of her way to make sure that the students have a great experience whether it is on the field or off the field.”

Murphy said she simply reads the students’ interest and reacts accordingly.

“When I got here, the girls were playing on the boy's soccer team, so adding a girls soccer team was no-brainer,” she said. “For indoor track, because of the volume of kids that were on the outdoor track team, there was a need. Then we started ice hockey (co-op with) Foran and Law.”

Starting football at the tech schools in Connecticut had always been a goal, Murphy said.

“When they finally allowed it, we started up the program,” she said. “Those are just some of the programs we were able to start with the help of a lot of people.”

Sokoloski said the bottom line is that Murphy wants to tech school athletes to have the same opportunities as students at other high schools.

“To secure the player's new apparel, pins or certificates, she plans these events at Platt to fund-raise the money,” said Sokoloski. “She started the Platt Tech annual 5K in 1992, which was the year I was born, so she had this little newborn at the road race, and she’s put it on ever since, up until when COVID hit recently. She uses all the proceeds to help fund the sports program, and the road race is a ton of work for her, but it’s worth it for her.”

Murphy said the Platt Tech 5K annually raised about $10,000 for the athletic program, which she used to buy things like sweatshirts and other apparel for athletes.

“That was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun,” she said.

And over the yeas, the students have returned Murphy’s dedication, even agreeing to come to school hours earlier than other students because their coach had a baby and was going to step down because she couldn’t make the after-school practices.

The team agreed to hold practice before school, and the tradition held for the next 25 years.

“I was joking and crazy enough, they took me up on it,” she said. “Until COVID, we practiced softball before school. You had to be in the building ready to go at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and I would have 30 girls at 5:05 a.m. before I arrived, ready to go.”

Brooke Pawlak played softball under Murphy and said she never considered not coming to school at 5 a.m. for her coach.

“I was a student and athlete at Platt Tech, so I had her as a teacher and a coach,” said Pawlak. “She is very special. She is so humble and never looks for praise for all the amazing things she has accomplished and done for others during her time at Platt.”

Former teammate Ashley Taylor agreed.

“When you’re young and teenager, you get influenced by a lot of things and having somebody like her in your life is incredible,” said Taylor. “It would touch my heart if we could accomplish this. She’s like my second mother. Now that I’m a mother, I want (her daughter) to be influenced by someone like Sue. So to show her, hey, this was mommy's coach and role model would be a touching experience.”

Murphy said when students tell her she has changed her life, she tells them that they’ve changed hers, too.

“There’s so many kids now that I had their parents playing for me. It’s crazy,” she said. “It’s well over 100 that I had their parents 20 years ago.”

Part of the reason why Paoletto said Murphy’s name deserves to be on the school’s athletic fields is that unlike many other athletic directors, even finding a place for the teams to play has long been a part of Murphy’s job.

“Platt never really had their football or softball field, and if there was a game going on, you could only use one field at a time,” he said. “So, in addition to planning the sports and making sure the games ran smoothly, Sue always had to find a field to play on or where they could practice. Since they never had their own designated sports facility, so it would be perfect to be named after Sue because she put her heart and soul into athletics.”