Shelburne resident and highly accomplished athlete and coach Tucker Pierson is in her first season coaching the Champlain Valley Union girls lacrosse team. She hopes to teach her student athletes not only the fundamentals of lacrosse, but give them the tools to develop self-confidence and work well as a team. This year’s varsity team is made up of seventeen girls plus two players who are on the JVA team but who practice with and dress for varsity games.
Shelburne News: How did you end up in Shelburne and coaching at CVU?
Tucker Pierson: We moved to Shelburne in June 2015 to be close to the Waldorf School, where we had enrolled our three children. I was really lucky to have coached field hockey at South Burlington in the fall, which was a great experience. It was the first time I have coached field hockey, even though it was my primary sport in college. But coaching varsity lacrosse was what I had been doing for 15 years in Oregon. I feel very lucky about the timing and being named the Varsity Lacrosse Coach at CVU.
SN: What’s your background as an athlete, coach, and student?
I grew up in Deleware, played three sports in high school, and went to Hamilton College, where I played field hockey for four years. [I] was team captain my junior and senior years, and also played lacrosse for two years. After college, I did Teach For America in the Bay Area in California and continued playing adult club field hockey.
I started a coed club field hockey team in Portland, Ore. in 1999 when we moved there, but there was no high school field hockey in Oregon, so I started a high school lacrosse team with a parent and a freshman girl while I was teaching high school. I coached at Lincoln High School in Portland for 8 years before moving to Oregon Episcopal School for the last 7 years. At both schools, I helped to build the programs to be league champions and final four teams. I have coached girls who have gone all over the country to play college lacrosse, have coached All-Americans, have coached National Tournament Regional Teams, and have run summer camps and clinics for younger girls.
I was on the board of the governing body of high school girls lacrosse in Oregon (OGLA) for seven years and its president from 2011-2013. I was inducted into the Oregon Lacrosse Hall of Fame in November, 2015.
SN: How’s the season looking for CVU Girls Lacrosse?
TP: The season looks bright for CVU. We have 12 seniors, most of whom have been playing together on varsity for three years. They have had rocky seasons, but I am optimistic for our run in the playoffs. We are working hard in practices on fundamentals and higher-level skills. We do need to continue to play two 25-minute halves of lacrosse in order to win lacrosse games, but we still have a lot of games to play before playoffs. We are looking to play into June, for sure.
SN: What are your goals for the girls as the season progresses, and what do you see as the main object of your role as coach?
TP: My goals for the season are that we constantly improve as a team, that we play together as a team, and that we never give up the will to win.
I see my objective as a coach as someone who teaches lacrosse-specific skills as well as sportsmanship and leadership qualities. I believe that sports are an integral and formative piece to the development of high school students. I also believe that sports can provide a setting for girls to develop their self-confidence, their ability to work with other girls who may or may not be their friends, to learn to lose, and to learn to win. We never know the outcome of a game before we play it, and that means that we are constantly learning and trying and working together to create the outcome that we want.
SN: What are the teams’ strengths, and what are your challenges?
TP: Our strengths as a team are the girls’ experience, and their love of lacrosse. Many play on the 802 club lacrosse team, so they play a lot of lacrosse, which is really good for them. Another strength is their athletic ability: we have a lot of multi-sport athletes, and I love that. They understand basic concepts like recovering on defense, being goal-side, and good defensive footwork. Another strength is that the girls really like each other, and I love teaching them and coaching them everyday!
One of our challenges, to be honest, is that even though we have a lot of seniors, they have not had a lot of success in winning in lacrosse. Two years ago, they won one game. Last year they were 6-8. So while they are confident athletes and confident young women, they are not as used to winning, so coming back from being down in a game is harder for them to do as a team. They are not used to digging down and finishing a close game with a win. But we’re working on it, and we still have 7 games in the regular season, so we have time to develop good winning habits.