GILBERT, Ariz. — NCAA field hockey as we know it would not exist without Sharon E. Taylor. That is why this year she will receive the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s (NFHCA) first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.
The NFHCA Hall of Fame and Awards Committee designed the new award 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.
“Sharon Taylor is an exceptional choice as the first recipient of the NFHCA Lifetime Achievement Award,” said NFHCA First Vice-President and Chair of the Hall of Fame and Awards Committee, Julie Ryan. “Sharon’s career reshaped women’s college athletics through her tireless efforts to advocate on its behalf. Through a collaboration of the United States Field Hockey Association (USFHA) and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) she started the conversation that made the first NCAA field hockey championship a reality. Sharon is a pioneer who has positively impacted our sport in a way that is meaningful to coaches of all levels and we are thrilled to honor her.”
“Field hockey, and the National Field Hockey Coaches Association as a representation of that sport, are special to me in a way that is unique and stands alone in my mind,” said Taylor. “I am very grateful.”
Taylor is responsible for having conceived and initiated the idea for a collegiate championship in the sport of field hockey. As a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1971, Taylor first proposed the idea of a collegiate championship to Dr. Katherine Ley who, at the time, was the chairwoman of the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Working first within the USFHA and later in conjunction with the AIAW, Taylor guided her vision into reality by helping develop the championship, the forerunner of today’s NCAA field hockey championship.
As a coach, Taylor started her career at Susquehanna University (1966 — 1972), and then led the Lock Haven University field hockey program for 23 years where she accumulated a 333-96-27 record. She guided Lock Haven to six national championships — in 1981 a Division II AIAW national championship, in 1989, a Division III NCAA national championship, and in 1982, 1992, 1994 and 1995 the Bald Eagles were named Division II NCAA national champions. She also won a Division III national championship when she was the head coach of the Lock Haven lacrosse program in 1979. Taylor was named the NCAA Coach of the Year for three-consecutive years in 1993, 1994 and 1995. In 1995, her final year leading the Lock Haven field hockey program, her team finished with a perfect season — 21-0.
From 1987 to 2012, Taylor served as the director of athletics for Lock Haven University. She oversaw 18 intercollegiate sports and under her leadership in 2001, 2002 and 2007 Lock Haven won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s Dixon Trophy, awarded to the most-successful all-around athletics program in the 14-member conference. During her time as athletic director, she served as the president of the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the president of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the president of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators.
While she was leading the Lock Haven athletics department, Taylor was still devoted to the sport of field hockey — she served as president and vice-president to the College Field Hockey Coaches Association (the predecessor to the NFHCA), she was a member of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse and Field Hockey Committees and a consultant to the President’s Commission on Olympic Sport. From 1987 until 2001, Taylor was the USFHA representative to the United States Olympic Committee and also served as the United States delegate to the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
In 2000, Taylor was elected to serve as the president of the United States Field Hockey Association (USFHA). She held the position until 2007.
Notably, just seven months into her tenure as the USFHA president, the attack on the World Trade Center occurred, affecting the U.S. women’s ability to travel to the World Cup qualifying tournament in France four days later. Taylor advocated on behalf of the women’s team to the FIH, ensuring that they would have an opportunity to qualify through an alternate process, which they did.
While she led the USFHA, field hockey in the United States saw a surge in participation at the grassroots level as well as a revival in international competitions in the United States. In 2001, the U.S. hosted to the first major International Hockey Federation event in the United States since the 1996 Olympic Games, and in 2005 hosted the Rabobank Champions Challenge.
An advocate for increased opportunities for women, Taylor lobbied for an increase in the number of women’s field hockey teams at the Olympic Games. In 2005, the International Olympic Committee approved an increase in the number of women’s teams at the Games from 10 to 12, matching the number of men’s teams at the tournament.
Taylor’s impact on our sport is wide-reaching — as a fierce supporter, she has helped shape field hockey into what we recognize today, from creating equal opportunities for women at the international level, to mentoring players at Lock Haven and young coaches across the country.
When asked how she felt about the recognition, Taylor commented: “I think of my 28 years of coaching and the extraordinary young women with whom I came in contact, and seeing them achieve more than they ever thought possible; the opportunity to contribute leadership to the sport when it, and we, experienced an unimaginable and horrific world event; and, the support of ‘hockey people’ to allow me to guide at least one remarkable innovation and change in hockey’s structure — these are the things that I think of around this award. And, frankly, no other recognition or accolade even comes close.”
Taylor will be presented with the NFHCA Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s NFHCA Awards Dinner sponsored by AstroTurf which will take place on Thursday, January 17, as part of the NFHCA Annual Convention in Lake Mary, Florida.