NFHCA mourns the passing of Hall of Fame member, Cathy McGuirk
BROCKPORT, N.Y. — The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) and the field hockey community are mourning the loss of Catherine “Cathy” Neary McGuirk, who passed away on May 31, 2021 after being diagnosed with ALS last June. She was the long-time head coach at Branford High School in Connecticut and a member of the NFHCA Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
In her four decades as the head coach of the Branford field hockey team, McGuirk amassed an impressive 558 wins. Over her 41 years on the sideline, she averaged only three losses a season and touted three undefeated seasons. Her team reached the Connecticut state tournament an unprecedented 40 years in a row and Branford field hockey was named Connecticut state champion 10 times. The players she coached accumulated so many accolades, it’s nearly impossible to keep count. McGuirk, herself, was named to seven separate halls of fame, of which the NFHCA is one.
“I was honored to share the stage with such a remarkable person,” said NFHCA president, Anne Parmenter, who was inducted into the NFHCA Hall of Fame alongside McGuirk. “Cathy was an absolutely wonderful woman who so many respected and admired. I know we will continue to feel Cathy’s presence as her impact reverberates through our field hockey community — she has touched so many of us.”
When asked about her proudest coaching moment prior to her Hall of Fame induction, she spoke of her first state championship in 1985 — remembering that team as being special and the journey to their first championship an important learning experience. “From 1977 to 1985, John [her husband and assistant coach] and I learned a lot,” McGuirk reminisced. “We learned a lot about how to get the kids engaged and what we wanted to do on the field while contending with some outstanding teams.”
McGuirk’s coaching philosophy centered around kindness and fun. Her mission was to treat her players fairly and make sure they enjoyed themselves because as she noted: “if you’re not having fun, you won’t want to work hard.”
She was married to John for almost 53 years and they coached together for 38 years at Branford. The field hockey field at Branford High School was named after the McGuirks in 2020.
Last fall, after learning about her ALS diagnosis, McGuirk’s current and former players and friends organized “Miles for McGuirk,” a 5K run/walk in her honor. They raised $17,000 for ALS research and a scholarship in McGuirk’s name.
McGuirk will be missed throughout the field hockey community, which is populated with her former players, their parents, Branford fans, and her friends and colleagues. Her obituary can be found in the Hartford Courant.