Field hockey consumes the University of Maryland’s Missy Meharg.
When Meharg took over as the school’s field hockey coach at age 24 in 1988, she received some advice from Sue Tyler: stop playing the sport and concentrate on coaching.
Meharg, a Severna Park resident, took over the program from Tyler, who coached at the University of Maryland for 14 seasons.
“I was still playing on the U.S. Olympic team,” Meharg recalled. “Sue told me, ‘You need to retire from playing.’ I was stubborn.”
Meharg had such a passion for the sport, she played for three more years before retiring.
“In one of those years, we didn’t make the NCAA tournament,” Meharg said. “I should have listened to Sue.”
Meharg can look back and laugh now. Her teams reached the NCAA tournament in 29 of the next 31 seasons. This fall will mark her 36th year.
Her achievements jump off the page. She’s won seven national championships and compiled a 625-159-9 record. In 2021, she became only the third college coach ever to surpass the 600-win plateau.
The Voice recently talked to Meharg about her outstanding career.
Was it uncommon to coach and play field hockey at the same time?
I don’t really recall anybody else doing it. I think it was rare. And it was a rare time to be hired at 24. I was fortunate the people at Maryland had the confidence in me to take over the program. There were lofty expectations because Sue had just won Maryland’s first national championship in 1987. It was a lot to take over. But I was so honored and fired up to take the job.
Looking back, did you ever think you would be coaching at the same school for 36 years?
No. I did have more opportunities to look at other schools and be recruited.
Each time it happened, I enjoyed learning about other opportunities for me and my family. But there was always something special about Maryland. Was I ever close to leaving? No.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
We can look at numbers, but I am so proud of the legacy. We have had six Olympians. Those are life-changing events, and we are able to help those women achieve that goal. I love all the coaches that I’ve had and the players that I’ve had that coached here or went onto to coach at other schools. They have been impactful with field hockey clubs all over the country.
What does it mean to put up all the numbers that you have?
I can say I have never really thought about it. I just feel it is what I do. When I have had meetings with athletic directors throughout the years, if we weren’t putting ourselves in a position to win championships — whether it be league or national championships — I think it is time for me to do other things. I have been honored that everybody has wanted to stay for so long.
How would you explain why you have stayed so long in coaching?
I recently just turned 60. The feedback that I get from the players is super empowering. It is such a great place for me to coach and teach at Maryland. When I recruit, players ask, “Could you define your coaching philosophy? What is the culture of the team like?” I say, “It’s always changing.” That’s what I like about Maryland.
How much longer do you want to coach?
I get asked that a lot. As long as I walk on that field every day and love it and love the interaction with the women. I’m pretty keen and perceptive on whether I am making an impact in their lives. Right now, I am doing that comfortably. I know when that time will be and it's certainly not right now.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here