Come mid-August, a familiar face will be strolling the sidelines of the Fallston High School field hockey program.
Alice Puckett, one of the state's winningest coaches, confirmed Wednesday that she will be back to lead the Cougars in 2013. Puckett last coached the Cougars in 2008, winning her 11th state title.
"This is true , it's true," Puckett said, when asked if she was back. "Nobody else wanted the job, so I'll just come back," Puckett said. "Dave Cesky offered me the job in January when everyone else had resigned. I was excited to accept it."
Puckett left the coaching position for good reason. Daughter Lindsey Puckett was graduating the following spring and headed to the University of Maryland, where she played field hockey for the Terrapins.
"I really wanted to go to all of her games," Puckett said. "There's no way that could have happened if I hadn't given it up."
The Cougars were left in capable hands with Megan Grant and Maddie Palko. Between the two, Fallston won state titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and were state semifinalists in 2010.
"When Megan Grant came in and told me she was pregnant and asked me to take over, I was like, oh yeah, sure, not really realizing what I was getting myself into, but when I stepped back, I wasn't sure if Megan was going come back or not," Palko said. "So, I didn't even know that Puckett was considering coming back, but it was definitely a plus surprise. You know, if you're going to walk away from the program, it's nice to know that the one that kind of gave it its reputation is the one that is coming back for it."
Palko, recently married, says she is scaling down to one sport as a promise to her husband, while Grant will back in an assistant role, according to Puckett. "I'm sure that some of these kids are sad that Maddie is not coming back," Puckett said. "She's young, she's vivacious, she's energizing. This will be their third coach in three years. You know, that's not easy on kids."
So, why would Puckett come back?
"Well, you know, teaching is one thing, but coaching is the ultimate way to really work with teenagers and get to know them and maybe give something to them that you can't in the classroom. There are so many rules and regulations," Puckett said. Puckett has taught 30 years in the phys ed department.
"Coaching is really a sport and teaching kids to be leaders and to be a team. You don't get that through just class stuff," Puckett said.
In her previous 26 seasons, Puckett compiled a pretty stellar record. Her career record sits at 340-63-18 and the 11 state championships.
As for this season, Puckett is ready. "We have a nice group of kids there right now. We may not have the best hockey players in the county right now, there's some really elite talent at C. Milton Wright and Patterson Mill, but we have a really good group of student-athletes that are willing to work and are smart kids," Puckett said. "And now we are allowed to coach them in the summer. Things have really changed."
While Puckett has been absent from the rigors of high school coaching the past four seasons, she's still has a pulse for what's going on through her camp, "Puckett's Instructional Field Hockey Camp," which is in its 16th year this week in Fallston. "A lot of them I know through camp. They don't know me other than as camp director," Puckett said."I'm not coaching, normally I'm running the concession stand or making sure everybody's got what they need on the field."
The camp is for pre-school age kids to high school seniors.
"It's insane," Puckett said.