Theresa Napolitano saying goodbye to coaching
The days may be getting longer in New England, with the sun lasting until way late in the afternoon and the temperatures on the rise. But for Theresa Napolitano time is getting shorter.
Within six weeks, depending upon how well her Lauralton Hall softball team performs late in the regular season and on into the state playoffs, she will bring to a close a marvelous 28-year high school coaching career once the tournaments end.
In its finality, it will have encompassed three schools, three varsity sports and six state titles — five in softball and one in field hockey.
The wins will total more than 600, but more important will be the impact that the Hamden resident will have left upon all the athletes she’s mentored.
Napolitano is completing her eighth and final spring in softball at Lauralton Hall. As of last Monday, the Crusaders had a 6-2 record and are well within striking distance of qualifying for the South-West Conference playoffs and the upcoming CIAC Class M state tournament.
Her decision to leave coaching, but to remain as a physics and forensics teacher at Lauralton Hall, was actually made last fall while her field hockey team was bidding for a state championship — one that had eluded the school for several seasons.
“I wanted to give them lots of time to find a new coach,” Napolitano said. “And, that way my softball kids knew going into this season that it would be my last.
“Most women who get into coaching don’t last almost thirty years like I’ve done. It’s quite unusual. When you consider your family and having children, it’s very difficult.”
The second of Theresa’s two daughters, Jessica, will graduate from Lauralton Hall later this spring. A softball and field hockey player, she will join her older sister, Rebecca, already a two-year starter in field hockey, at New London’s Connecticut College in the fall.
“I really couldn’t have done this without the support of my husband, Tony,” Theresa said. “He’s terrific. He’s been my supporter through all of these years.”
Having completed athletic careers at both Stonington High School and Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Napolitano started teaching at St. Mary’s High School, also in New Haven, in 1985.
When the school closed in 1990, she found a job at Lauralton Hall. She began coaching, however, at Amity Regional in Woodbridge.
Her ability to break down the game of softball into smaller components and bring out the best in players became evident, almost right away.
Between 1994 and 2000, the Spartans reached five Class LL title games, but they were never able to take that final step and become a state champ.
That changed in 2000.
Amity went on a run where it won four championships in five years (2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005). During that time, the Spartans won 112 games and lost only seven.
They had two undefeated seasons (2003, 2005).
Twice within that time span, Napolitano was among the eight finalists for National High School Coach of the Year. She was also the Connecticut Sportswriters’ Alliance Girls High School Coach of the Year in 2005.
She made a decision to leave the Amity program in 2006 and began coaching both softball and field hockey at Lauralton Hall, a private girls’ preparatory school in Milford.
She won a Class M state title there in 2008. Almost all of the girls that she coaches go on to college and play sports there.
“There are so many parts of coaching that I’ll miss,” she said. “Each sport that I’ve been involved in has those smaller parts to it. I’ve always enjoyed being able to bring a player to a certain level, and then to see each one get better. I’ve liked being able to teach kids how to slide the right way in softball, or to teach kids how to dive in volleyball. How to get somewhere where they otherwise thought they couldn’t.”
Reflecting back on a decision made last fall, Napolitano feels it was a good decision.
“I knew it was the right time.
“Now Tony and I will be able to spend more time together and to see our kids play in college.”