South Burlington High School’s girls lacrosse coach Anjie Soucy was among the honorees at the 12th annual US Lacrosse VT Chapter dinner held on November 9. Soucy has coached for seventeen years at South Burlington in both lacrosse and field hockey and led the Rebels to state championships on the lacrosse field five times.
However, the ceremony was about more than wins and losses. It was an opportunity for those who truly know the game of lacrosse to come together and recognize the incredible efforts that the honorees put forth on and off the lacrosse field. Coach Soucy was recognized alongside fellow honorees that included Middlebury High School all-American and Boston University standout Alyssa Trudel, former Director of Woodstock Rec Lacrosse Program and current Essex JV coach Dave Neil, and Director and Head Coach of Green Mountain Girl’s Lacrosse and former Middlebury standout Joanie Donahue.
Julie Stevenson, a former player for Soucy in one of her first years at South Burlington and a current assistant coach for the Rebels, was on hand to induct her former coach and illustrate the positive impact that Soucy has made on the hundreds of players who have gone through the South Burlington program. “Every year, she is putting in countless hours on and off the lacrosse field.” said Stevenson in her introductory address. “She is constantly thinking about what we can do differently, and how we can be a better team. Her enthusiasm for the game and her team never waned. She wasn’t just teaching us lacrosse lessons on the field, but life lessons.” Stevenson is just one of Soucy’s former players who have returned to support the team, representing a testament to Coach Soucy’s time, energy, effort, and involvement with every player on her roster.
In her acceptance speech, Soucy reminisced back to her first season in 1997. She was a teacher in the South Burlington School District, and was already contributing as a coach in other sports. As a testament to her abilities to connect with student athletes and her tireless work ethic, then-athletic director Mike O’Day asked her to be South Burlington’s varsity girl’s lacrosse coach, despite the notable handicap of having never played the game herself. “Coach Soucy studied every book on the game of girl’s lacrosse and went to every coaching seminar” said Stevenson, who would become one of the first protégés of South Burlington’s lacrosse revolution.
The results speak for themselves, as the gamble seventeen years ago has evolved into SBHS housing a veritable lacrosse dynasty. South Burlington currently holds a 182-78-6 record under Soucy’s coaching tenure, with seven state final appearances and five championship victories. However, one only has to hear the testimony from her former players to know that it is her empathy, compassion, respect, drive, and vision that makes playing for the Rebels such a unique and special experience. Furthermore, in her acceptance speech, Soucy stressed that she encourages students to become well-rounded human beings with a diverse template of activities, hobbies, and interests.
“Don’t get to the point where kids are specializing in lacrosse only or any one particular sport year round,” Soucy emphasized. “Keep playing everything, not just for your mental health but obviously for physical health as well. That transfer of skills between sports- that’s where it pays off. You can love the game with all your heart, but keep it in perspective and allow yourself to be open to new experiences and opportunities.”
The evening ended with an emphasis on the core values that have become the trademark of South Burlington’s championship caliber under her coaching tenure- take care of your schoolwork, be respectful to your parents, and learn the life lessons that the game of lacrosse has to offer.
“It’s crazy how the women’s game has evolved.” Soucy concluded. “I know there is a push in some areas to include helmets in the women’s game. I’m actually of the opposite opinion, and hope to keep helmets off the field. I’m always careful and make sure my kids are safe. If we include helmets, that will further the illusion of invincibility on the field, leading players to make more reckless choices and ultimately taking harder hits.”
The game will progress, and different classes of student athletes will continue to cycle through at SBHS, but the culture of enthusiasm, dedication, and love for the game of lacrosse will remain. The carefully crafted varsity model will be implemented with each new class of Rebels and continue to prove that South Burlington’s on-field success is dictated as much by heart, perseverance, and exemplary leadership as it is by any one individual talent. These are the qualities of Soucy’s championship teams and what drives her as a coach.
“We get older, but the kids stay the same age,” Soucy said with a laugh. “We’re learning together and from one another - last season, they taught me how to use my smart-phone.”
SOURCE: Peter Caulkin, Correspondent