Sports, continued from page 39 chance to see her in action. I was impressed with the way she ran her classes and got everyone to participate." Middlemiss takes over for McLaughlin, who retired in March. McLaughlin was affiliated with the MHS girls hoops program for 26 years, first as an assistant to Hyde, then as head coach for the past nine years. She was also the head field hockey coach for 14 years. "I know I have huge shoes to fill," says Middlemiss of McLaughlin. "When I was playing for Mimi and Karen, we were at the top along with Haverhill and Andover. I take a lot of pride in this program." Middlemiss' mission is based on empowerment and pride. She relates, "I'm a motivator. I believe in these kids. I think it is the job of a coach to build confidence. That is a huge aspect of what I do. When teams go on runs, it's because they are confident in themselves. "In order to prove yourself, you have to start by believing in yourself. I'm big on communication and attention to detail." Smith, who also coaches swimming at MHS, believes that Middlemiss is the right person for the job. He states, "I think it fits her very well. I remember watching her play and I know how intense she was. Jillian will bring that same intensity and competitiveness as a coach. Basketball is her first love and that will also translate to coaching." With an apprenticeship under Smith and some other pretty fine coaches, Middlemiss is a mélange of many mentors: "I think I take a little bit from a lot of coaches. Every player responds to criticism differently. I have a lot of kids for whom basketball is not the number one sport. "I want the 12th player on the team to know that she plays a huge role on the team. Everyone on that bench is very important. I am extremely passionate about what I do. I am also extremely competitive." As Middlemiss takes control of the program, Methuen High School is beginning a new era with the renovated facility. Middlemiss sees this as a plus, stating, "I think it's a great way to start us on the road back to being a championship contender. "I'd like to create a city championship tournament where our grammar schools play against each other. It really all starts with the youth programs as our feeder system. They are going to definitely see me and my staff at those games. We want to be there.” Middlemiss is still asked questions about her high school hoops prowess and does not shy away from the program's two state titles and glorious history. "We competed every year for a state championship," says Middlemiss. "I want to bring more Methuen girls basketball alumni back to the games. I am so grateful and beyond excited about this opportunity. I have so many ideas. I think once I get through this first year, I will be able to settle down and really look at the future. One thing is for sure, we want to win."
YOUNG BUT POWERFUL! Swell Swales
As Jillian Middlemiss prepares to take the helm in girls basketball, another Ranger sports legend is doing the same thing in another sport. Kristen Belair Swales, the school's field hockey scoring record holder, is succeeding McLaughlin as MHS field hockey coach. Swales was also a standout softball and basketball player who graduated from MHS in 2003 and played both field hockey and softball at Merrimack College. It was at Merrimack that Swales' coaching fire was lit. "I was an assistant field hockey coach at Merrimack for a season," relates Swales, who, like Middlemiss, is a physical education teacher. "With my job at the Tenney School, I feel like I am coaching every day. "This new opportunity is very exciting. I was able to meet with some of the players and the captains. The first thing I told them is that I was excited to be coaching them and I am looking forward to a great season." Swales former coach and predecessor is 100 percent behind her. "Kristin was and is a phenomenal athlete," says Karen McLaughlin. "When I heard she got the job, I contacted her and told her that if she needed anything, all she had to do was let me know. "She had three brothers and I think she learned her toughness from them. When she was younger, she was on my softball team and I told the league that they had to move her up to the Senior Division. She was going to knock someone's teeth out. Whether it was basketball, softball or field hockey, she was always at her best." In addition to a great coach in McLaughlin, the Methuen field hockey program lost several key seniors, but Swales is ready to take on the challenge. She relates, "To be honest, I don't know a lot about last year's team other than we lost a few seniors. I am really looking forward to using pre-season to get to know the players and learn what our strengths and weaknesses are." Swales’ coaching style can be defined as personal and painstaking: "As a coach I really want to be able to break down each individual player's strengths and weaknesses. We can use that information to help develop their skill set as well as see how they can best contribute to the team. "I think it is important to learn what motivates a particular athlete and work from there. I also want my players to understand why we are practicing specific skills or doing certain drills and how they relate to the game." While Swales' intensity as a player was unmatched, she recognizes the importance of enjoying the journey to success: "It is important to find a balance between working hard and being serious, and also being able to let loose and have some fun. Team-building activities, team challenges, and games are a few of the ways I will help keep things fun." Job one for Swales is to immerse herself in her roster and depth chart. She explains,
Methuen White 9-year-old team lost in tournament play, but became the youngest Methuen team ever to make it to the state tournament. They are (front, from left) Zachary Channen, Riley Burke, Brendan Ferris, Owen Sullivan, Liam Doherty, Cameron Janakowski; (back, from left) coach Pat Finn, coach Garret Ferris, Matthew Sullivan, Jackson Petisce, Anesti Touma, Carter Bransfield, Drew Prindle, Ryan Finn, head coach Rob Prindle.
"I really didn't follow the team last year, so I will be learning each player's ability during pre-season. As far as leadership goes, three captains - Alyssa Drouin, Meghan Bruneau and Annie Sears - were selected last season and after meeting with them, I am confident that they will be great leaders on our team." McLaughlin knows that Swales, herself, is a great leader: "Kristen was always good with her teammates and I really enjoyed coaching her. I think she's going to do a really nice job, but she has to be patient. She would probably be the best player on the field right now." Indeed, Swales continues to play field hockey herself year-round in various leagues. The experience translates nicely to her coaching. "I consider myself a student of the game and am continually learning the more I play. I think experiencing the rule changes firsthand as a player will help me to coach these changes to my players," she said. McLaughlin sees good things for the program's future under Swales. She states, "I am glad that our summer field hockey program will keep going. That's the feeder system. Kristen will have a lot of kids who have never played the game before. I wish her a lot of luck, and she does have some good players who will be juniors and seniors this year." Like Middlemiss in basketball, Swales is eager to return to Ranger Road: "I am very excited for this opportunity to coach at Methuen High and give back to my school. Coaching this field hockey team is something that I have always wanted and I feel like this opportunity came at the perfect time." For Swales, it is clear that Methuen field hockey goes beyond mere game plans and strategies. She relates, "Field hockey is my passion and I am excited to share that with my players. I didn't play field hockey until I
was a freshman in high school and I always wished that I had started sooner. "It is my goal to develop a youth program so that Methuen students have the opportunity to play field hockey throughout middle school."
New Methuen High School girls basketball coach Jillian Middlemiss was a basketball referee for two years before realizing she truly belonged on the sidelines. It took Brian Martin a bit longer to make that trip. One of the pre-eminent high school and college hoops officials in the region is the new head girls basketball coach at Methuen's Presentation of Mary Academy (PMA). While Martin will be a new face on the bench, he is no stranger to PMA having coached cross-country and track at the school for nearly two decades, a role he plans to continue. Our region's sports everyman is also a respected softball coach, distance runner and golf instructor. So, what attracted him to the PMA hoops job? "I love coaching," explains the 55-yearold Martin. "And I wanted the challenge of trying something a little different. "PMA is a very small school, and I know most of the student-athletes there. We graduated five seniors from the basketball program and lost a lot of height from last year's team. We do, however, have a few promising freshmen joining the program." Martin looks for an up-tempo and hustling style. He explains, "I plan on playing intense defense and hitting the boards hard. I have a knack for getting the most out of a student-athlete. I feel all athletes need to be pushed and coached differently. Some need tough love and some need to be encouraged a bit. My job, as their coach, is to find out See SPORTS, Page 41