TEWKSBURY – Citing a number of reasons, mostly involving her full-time job with the Wilmington Public School system, Tewksbury Memorial High School Field Hockey coach Jordan (Russell) Buckland resigned after ten years with the program, the last three as the head coach.
Brooke Pacheco, who served Buckland's JV coach during the 2018 and '19 seasons before moving to JV soccer coach last year, was named her replacement on Tuesday.
Buckland played field hockey at TMHS under legendary coach Pat Ryer, graduating in 2007, and then took over as her replacement before the 2018 season. In three years, Buckland had a record of 18-30-0, which included qualifying for the Division 2 North Sectional tournament in each of her first two years.
In 2018, the Redmen finished 9-10, including a loss to Bishop Fenwick, and the following year the team finished in a tie for second place in the MVC Division 2 standings which was an automatic qualification for the state tournament. Tewksbury went on to the post-season and was defeated by the University of Watertown, 6-0 to close out the season with a 7-12-0 record.
This past year in the abbreviated season, which included new rules, the Redmen finished 2-8 overall. During the second half of the season, Buckland missed two weeks when she was tested positive for COVID-19.
Buckland has been a full-time teacher at Wilmington High School since 2013, first serving as an education assistant before switching over to Physical Education/Wellness two years ago. Over the last three years, it has becoming more and more difficult for her to get to practices and games on time because WPS gets out later in the afternoon compared to Tewksbury.
“A lot of it had to do with scheduling. It was getting really difficult for me to balance all of the things that I was doing,” said Buckland. “It was tough when (my husband and I) moved to Manchester, New Hampshire and now having to commute for everything just made life a little bit more difficult. Wilmington already gets out significantly later than Tewksbury does. It was tough and it was one of those things where I was really trying and saying 'I can make it work and I can do this' and every time I sat down and wrote things out, I was like 'this is a lot to do'.
“I had a lot of conversations with my husband and my family and I hate walking away from this. Coaching is something that I am so passionate about, but (in the end) I was spreading myself far too thin. I would tell the girls all the time that you have to make choices and if you want to do something, you have to dedicate yourself to it and I thought it would be tough to preach that and have such a difficult time practicing it. I was feeling like I was being unfair. It was a real tough process and decision for sure.”
Tewksbury High Athletic Director Ron Drouin has had to replace a number of head coach positions lately, and almost all of the resignations had to do with family/scheduling, etc.
“Jordan did a good job in her time here. She worked hard, she was a longtime assistant coach and was the head coach for the past three years. She worked hard and did a good job. Her kids played hard,” he said. “Times change and people's lives change. They have responsibilities in their lives and with their families and sometimes their jobs change. It's tough right now with high school (athletics) with certain hours and people having to get out of work to coach and I understand all of that. She needs to have her full-time job first, as this is her secondary job and her full-time job has changed so she can't get out in time to be on the bus for road games and certain times.”
Besides the scheduling conflicts, Buckland said that teaching in Wilmington, coaching in Tewksbury and now living in Manchester, New Hampshire, just seemed like pieces of her puzzle would just never fit.
“When I became the varsity coach, I just loved it. I really enjoyed being the assistant/JV coach, but I got the varsity job and just loved it, loved knowing it was my team. When I became the coach, I just said that was going to fight for everything and get the program back to where it used to be, and each year it just became harder and harder (to do that),” she said. “It happens all of the time when generations change and they are different than the ones that came before. There were some years where I thought that we didn't get enough kids who were really passionate about field hockey. Instead, we got a lot of kids who were there as an inbetween sport, for a stay active and fit sport and seemed to be more into basketball or lacrosse and that was totally fine to me. It seemed like a lot of years that was happening where kids would say 'I'm just here until hockey season starts' and that's all fine but it becomes difficult to coach in that situation.
“As a coach, I was hoping to push people to who wanted to play field hockey for the rest of their lives and I was getting more and more kids who were for the social aspect or the working out aspect and all of that is 100 percent why you play sports to begin with. I just felt like I was getting a little more out of touch, especially the more I was getting involved working in Wilmington. It just seemed like I was a lot more in sync with the kids I was teaching there, than I was coaching with the kids in Tewksbury.”
Despite all of those challenges, being a former player, a seven-year assistant coach on a number of very successful teams and being a head coach for three years, taking two teams to the state tournament after losing a handful of talented players the year before, Buckland said that the program will always have a big and special place in her heart.
“This program has meant everything to me. Coaching has been something that I have been so passionate about. I met Pat (Ryser) I think when I was in the fourth grade,” said Buckland. “I started going to her field hockey summer camp and from that point on, I just absolutely fell in love with the sport. I got all of my friends to sign up and play with me and then when I got older, I was in the same school as Pat's two sons (James and Corey) and we became friends. She has been such a huge part of my life and not just in sports but in everything. She was always there for me and just fantastic.
“When I got to high school and was able to play for her, it was just amazing. We just had such an amazing group of girls and those girls just made field hockey their life. It was their passion. We knew that's what we wanted to do, was to play field hockey, to get better every time we played, we wanted to play together and it was so, so cool. Then I was able to watch my sisters play when they got to high school.
“I got the JV job and coaching under Pat just reawoken my passion for the sport and it was something that I wanted to pass on to other players. I wanted people to feel the same way and want to come back.”