Dr. Suzanne Tyler to receive the NFHCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award
BROCKPORT, N.Y. — The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is privileged to announce former head coach and associate athletic director at the University of Maryland and former director of athletics at the University of Maine, Dr. Suzanne Tyler, will receive the NFHCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tyler has the distinct honor of being the only Division I coach to win an NCAA National Championship in two different sports, field hockey and lacrosse. In addition to her success as a coach, Tyler was a change-maker in athletics administration, serving in leadership roles at a time when few women graced the halls of athletic administration.
The results of her work on behalf of the sport of field hockey and on behalf of female student-athletes continues to be felt well after her retirement.
“Our sport would not be what it is today without Dr. Tyler. She used her voice on the field, but also in writing and within athletics as an administrator and leader to advocate for female sports,” noted NFHCA first vice-president and chair of the NFHCA Awards and Hall of Fame Committee, Chrissy Summers. “As the only Division I coach to win a National Championship in two sports, her impact stretches beyond field hockey. It is an honor that she chose to give her immeasurable talents to our sport.”
“I am pleased and honored to be recognized for contributions to the sport of field hockey,” said Tyler. “While coaching, I focused daily on the players yet also felt deeply committed to developing the sport, enhancing coaching and coaches, and spreading the appreciation and love of field hockey. I am so proud of the players, as the Maryland team was always known to be better than the sum of its parts!”
As a Coach
After graduating from Northeastern University, Tyler began her coaching career as an assistant coach at Cornell University in 1969, in 1971 she became the head coach of the Big Red. While at Cornell, she partnered with NFHCA Hall of Famer and former head coach at Ithaca College, Doris Kostrinsky, to create the New York State Collegiate Championship. The championship tournament was the first of its kind and, on the cusp of Title IX, was a significant opportunity for women to compete in a championship environment.
In the fall of 1973, Tyler made her way to Penn State University where she was in good company. While at Happy Valley, Tyler shared an office with Gillian Rattray and Harriet Reynolds — two coaches who would, like Tyler, go on to make names for themselves in the world of women’s sport.
Later in 1973, Tyler arrived in College Park to serve as an assistant coach under the tutelage of Dotty McKnight. One year later, Tyler became the head coach of both the field hockey and lacrosse programs, establishing the foundation for two national powerhouses whose legacies have few equals.
In her 14-year career at the helm of the University of Maryland field hockey program, Tyler amassed a 143-88-26 record. Her Terps advanced to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) final four in 1979, competed in the ACC title game three times, and made two NCAA final four appearances. In 1987, Maryland clinched in the NCAA National Championship — the first in their prolific championship history.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Tyler replicated most of those accolades in lacrosse, compiling a 191-60-3 record over 16 years and taking two NCAA championship trophies — in 1981 and 1986 — home to College Park.
Outside of the college arena, Tyler served as the United States Field Hockey Association’s (USFHA) national coaching coordinator, served on the Olympic Development Committee, and coached within the Olympic Development Program from 1975 to 1978.
As a Leader
When she was coaching, she was also cultivating.
Mentoring young women was at the crux of her coaching philosophy. Tyler remarked that she willed her Maryland teams to use the strength of the group to make up for any individual limitations — a lesson that remarkable alumnae have taken into a variety of careers.
University of Maryland head coach, Missy Meharg, emphasized that Tyler “coached coaches.” Tyler fostered the careers of coaches like Meharg herself as well as Celine Cunningham, Heather Lewis, Susan Merritt, Christy Morgan, Mandy O’Leary, Mary Schwartz, Jessica Wilk, and Anne Wilkinson — women who either coached with or played for Tyler.
During her time as a coach, she served the sport in myriad ways. She created and operated the first summer camp for field hockey in the D.C. area and wrote extensively in publications like Women Coach magazine and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport Field Hockey Guide. She served on the AIAW Field Hockey Committee, the ACC Field Hockey Committee, and the USFHA Olympic Development Committee.
Tyler is also credited with developing and implementing the first USFHA coaching certification program as the USFHA National Coaching Coordinator in 1978.
While she was never finished “coaching” Tyler did move to administration at a time when few women touted the title of “athletic director.” She served as an associate athletic director as well as the interim athletic director at the University of Maryland. Then, in 1995, Tyler made her way to Orono, where she became the director of athletics at the University of Maine.
And if being an athletic director for the Black Bears wasn’t enough, Tyler kept giving back to the sport, coaching field hockey at Bangor High School for two seasons in 2008 and 2009.
As a Pioneer
“In field hockey, Sue was instrumental in leading the transition of our collegiate game from the AIAW to NCAA sponsorship,” remarked Meharg. “She started grassroots efforts to grow the game at the high school level as well as at the collegiate level. Over her five decades of involvement in the sport of field hockey, Sue influenced our game at every level — she did the early, important work toward developing coaching and teaching standards and her service at the administrative level ensured the viability of women’s sports well into the future.”
Today — after coaching, administrating, and raising two children — Tyler has retired on a lake in Maine with her husband, Dennis Casey.
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be in good company — it will share the shelf with a collection of Tyler’s other awards, among them recognition in the Triton High School Hall of Fame, the University of Maryland Hall of Fame, the USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Tyler will be presented with the award at the next in-person NFHCA Awards Dinner. Tyler is the third recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award — she joins Nancy Cox, who was honored in 2019, and Sharon E. Taylor, the inaugural recipient who was recognized in 2018.
The NFHCA Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2018 as a way to distinguish a seasoned coach and their significant impact on our sport. With this award their courage, leadership, and strength are being recognized as well as their outstanding commitment to the sport of field hockey.