Field hockey coach Jeannette Ireland has been head coach at Mt. Hebron for 25 years and is still going strong. Ms. Ireland is well known around both the school and the community.
Coaching at the collegiate level as an assistant, Ireland has extensive experience with field hockey and lacrosse. Her coaching style is very effective.
Throughout her coaching career, Mt. Hebron varsity field hockey has been well respected by everyone in the county under Ms. Ireland’s leadership.
“I think every season is special. I think every girl who plays is special,” said Ms. Ireland.
Returning players have several quirks to look forward to with Ms. Ireland as a coach.
“When people get hurt, she falls on the ground laughing instead of helping,” senior captain Emily Purnell said jokingly.
On the field hockey team, players can expect a friendly, supportive environment.
Senior Chachi Kelehan, the team’s starting goalie, stated, “She’s J’Mama — she’s like your mom. You can go to her for anything. She loves and cares about each of her players.”
This love and compassion seems to work as the team ended this past season with a 10-5 record. Her knowledge of the game brings another aspect to her coaching repertoire as well.
“She has a lot of experience, and she always seems to know what to do when we don’t,” explained senior defensemen Emma Miller.
Much of Ms. Ireland’s coaching experience came from John’s Hopkins University, where she coached field hockey and lacrosse as an assistant. She eventually stopped coaching at Hopkins and did not have intentions of coaching in the future. Through a series of fortunate events, Ms. Ireland eventually was asked to be the coach of Mt. Hebron. She accepted, and very soon the program saw immediate changes.
Thus, her career at Mt. Hebron began, and she hasn’t looked back.
“It’s a real special community,” Ms. Ireland said. “It has wonderful families that are supportive of not only the athletics, but the school.”
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly for the head coach when disaster struck. A recent mammogram revealed that she had breast cancer.
Ms. Ireland missed the majority of last season, and the team had to rely on each other for support. This hardship motivated them to work as hard as they could. They ended last year’s regular season with a 10-1-2 record and tried their best to win the state championship for their coach.
“The team really rallied behind me, and we had a great season,” Ms. Ireland said.
A full team effort declared the team co-county champs, regional champs, and state finalists. Despite the loss at the state championships, Mt. Hebron fans in the Washington College bleachers chanted Coach Ireland’s name in a show of support after the game.
Ms. Ireland has two sons, both Mt. Hebron alumni. Her eldest, Mr. Richard Ireland, is a Mt. Hebron faculty member who teaches Social Studies and Technology Education.
Everyone in the community helped out one way or another.
“I did more chores around the house and tried to pitch in as much as possible,” said Mr. Ireland.
Field hockey was a huge part of Ms. Ireland’s life even when Mr. Ireland was a child.
“I love it,” said Mr. Ireland. “I’ve probably seen more hockey games than anyone else in the school. I grew up on the sideline.”
What makes Ms. Ireland special on top of her coaching ability is the type of encouraging, hardworking, nice person she is. Though Mt. Hebron may enjoy seeing her on the sidelines for another 25 years, she insists that she will eventually retire because “after all, all good things have to come to an end,” she said.