On a warm and sunny Sunday morning, friends and family gathered around to celebrate the field hockey Senior Day, as well as give a proper sendoff to longtime Coach Lisa Knight.
Knight has coached the field hockey team at the high school for 32 years, and over that time, she has formed close bonds with all of her players. Knight has always been a prominent face (and voice) in the hallways of the high school. As a physical education teacher, she brought the same enthusiasm and spirit to games of kickball that she brought onto the field during afterschool sports.
Knight praised assistant coaches Kaylea Moore, Beth Blankenship O’Connor, and Kendall Robinson for their part in shaping the young players into powerful athletes. “The people who care the most yell the loudest,” Knight said as she put down the microphone and used her coach voice to address the group.
She thanked O’Connor for her tremendous dedication to the team, despite her many other obligations. “Even with three 5-year-olds and heading a figure skating program, she still manages to support this group of athletes,” she said. Knight gave O’Connor a purple coffee mug because of her love for coffee.
Knight then turned to Moore, recognizing her influence on both the defensive and offensive side. She gave her a Pez dispenser which represented how on the defensive line, players run down the field one after the other. A gift of a Skor bar stood for the offensive line doing what they are meant to do — score.
Knight said Robinson played forward line when she was in high school at MVRHS, and now she has moved on to be a great coach. She said Robinson is a comforting presence on the sidelines during tense games. “Every coach needs a ‘kumbaya,’ a relaxing coach. Kendall has been there to cool me down if I get a little too excited,” Knight said.
The assistant coaches gave Knight a bouquet of red, white, and purple roses to honor her retirement.
Knight then began addressing each of the 12 seniors, pointing out the different attributes of each player, both on and off the field. “I really don’t have to write anything, it all comes off the top of my head,” Knight said.
She thanked Christian Schmidt, the first male to play field hockey at MVRHS, for his bravery in doing what he is passionate about. “It has always been, ‘OK, girls, and Christian!’” she said. “I would see him in the hall and he would say, ‘I’m going to do it, I’m going to play.’ And sure enough, I see him at the first practice, running around on the field.”
Knight told senior Mariah Donahue, “I am always here for you, and I am so proud.”
Lollie Bezahler was the next senior to receive praise from Knight. “Seven years of Bezahlers in our program. Every program needs a Lollie,” Knight said. “You will be successful in everything you do, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
She turned to the crowd of parents and family members to thank them for their talented sons and daughters: “It is a privilege for us coaches to be with every single one of these players.”Toward the end of the ceremony, Knight fought back tears as she turned to her biggest supporters over the years, her parents. “Throughout my career as a coach, I have had my best two cheering people in the entire world. They are the first people I go to after a good game, and the first people I go to after a bad one,” she said. Knight’s mom, Ann, wore a collection of purple beads from Knight’s first home game as a coach.
The seniors then stood in a line and held up pieces of paper with letters on them, spelling out Knight’s name with the number 32 at the end. Each letter stood for something great about the veteran coach, with the number 32 standing for 32 years of dedication to the team.
Knight’s parents told The Times they are overjoyed by their daughter’s retirement, but said this isn’t the end of her time at the school. “She loves this program. I don’t think anything can keep her from these kids,” Ann said. “She has always had a passion for teaching.”
Knight’s father, Fritz, said his daughter has been an athlete since she was young. “She was very into basketball, and always competitive,” Fritz said. “We are so proud of her.”