Brenda Baker and Sue Hooper prove that two head coaches can be better than one.
Baker and Hooper have co-coached the Westminster field hockey program since 1982. The Owls have won three state titles under their direction -- including last year's Class 4A crown -- and are enjoying another strong season.
The co-coaching idea -- for junior varsity and varsity -- started innocently enough. Baker came over from South Carroll, where she won a state title, to be a Westminster field hockey coach. Hooper, the incumbent, often had wondered how a program that combined junior varsity and varsity programs as well as coaches would do.
When Baker started with the Owls (8-1 this year, 3-1 in county), Hooper asked if she was game for this experiment. Baker agreed, and the rest is field hockey history.
"I looked at other sports, and it seemed like nobody gave much credit to the junior varsity," said Hooper, who is in her 21st season as a head coach at Westminster. "I tried to make them feel important."
And that's just what happened. The Westminster junior varsity and varsity practice together every day. The older players teach, the younger players learn, the whole program grows.
With Baker and Hooper working together, players deal with the same coaches for up to four years. The Baker-Hooper system becomes entrenched.
"We get to know these kids, and we know them all the way through," Hooper said. "We work with them for four years. I wanted the two programs together for a long time."
Others see the value in working with the same coaches over and over.
"They get the kids for four yearsinstead of two," Liberty coach Courtney Vaughn said. "They have two people repeating the same things. You just keep remembering what they're saying."
Vaughn is one of the three Carroll County coaches touched by Baker and Hooper. Hooper coached Vaughn and Baker worked with South Carroll's Stacy Stem. Both guided Francis Scott Key coach Mindy Wagner.
Baker said she and Hooper often teach similar concepts, but aren't afraid to disagree. She said there's no power play, and the two try to split their duties evenly.
In fact, the two think so much alike that often they'll find themselves yelling the same instructions during a game.
"It's an ideal situation," Baker said. "The longer you're together, the easier it is."
Westminster halfback Denise Bollinger is a big fan of the co-coach format. Bollinger said that she knows help is available when needed.
"You always know there's someone there," said Bollinger, in her second year on the varsity and her fourth year in the program. "If one is working with another player . . . I know there is someone else to go to."
Bollinger said the coaches are able to combine their knowledge of field hockey to teach players.
Both Baker and Hooper realize that this is a unique situation and don't expect to see co-coaches popping up all over the county in high school sports.
"It's worked for us," Hooper said. "It might not work for other people."