NEPSAC Honors Kate Turner for Distinguished Service
November 18, 2016 – Longtime associate athletic director Kate Turner received the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Distinguished Service Award today. The award is given annually to the individual who has contributed significantly to New England Independent School Athletics and Physical Education through enthusiasm, dedication, leadership, and vision. Turner is only the fifth woman to receive the award, which NEPSAC has presented since 1984.
“Kate Turner has played an integral role in boosting our students’ confidence and getting them to step out of their comfort zone for years, and I could not think of a better person for this award,” said Brewster’s Athletic Director Matt Lawlor. “We need more Kate Turners at our schools. She sees the athletic fields as natural extensions of our classroom and finds a way to get the most reluctant of our students trying something new that they won’t regret.”
Turner came to Brewster in 1986 from Kingswood Regional High School where, in addition to her teaching responsibilities, she had been coaching field hockey at the junior varsity level. During her first year at Brewster, she was an instructional support teacher and during that time, the assistant athletic director position became available. A life-long athlete and advocate for girls in sports, Turner was ideal for the position and she got to work immediately making an impact on athletics for all at Brewster.
During her first year, she founded the Brewster field hockey program and has coached within the program on and off for three decades, most recently as the assistant for the junior varsity team. Over the years she also has coached in the alpine ski, tennis, and lacrosse programs.
Coaching is only one of her assets in Brewster’s Bobcat Nation, though. “One of the many hidden talents of Kate Turner is her effectiveness at crowd control at our prep basketball games in the ever competitive Lakes Region League,” Lawlor shared. “When you have two rowdy upperclassmen chirping opposing teams or officials, there is no better solution to calming them down than having Ms. Turner take her ball of yarn and sit right between them during a heated contest in our gym. In minutes, she will be chatting with the rambunctious youngsters, getting them genuinely interested in the socks she is knitting for her grandson, William. It’s brilliant; the teens calm down a bit and learn about certain knitting patterns.”
“For those of you who need help with crowd control this winter, give me a call – believe me – she will have your hot-tempered fans holding the extra yarn by the end of the game.”
In the late 1990s she, along with associate admission director Margaret Martin, founded the local Abenaki girls’ lacrosse program, a program that continues to thrive today. She also served on the NEPSAC board for 21 years.
After accepting the award, Turner reflected on her decades of experiences in independent school sports, which began as a young girl at Beaver Country Day School and Milton Academy. “This was in the ‘50s and ‘60s and there were virtually no sports programs offered for girls outside of these [independent] schools,” she said. “At Beaver and Milton, they were not only offered, they were required. The NEPSAC schools were clearly way ahead of the curve regarding the value of athletics for girls.
“Although I wasn’t a star, I loved the team sports scenario. If I was cut from one sport, there was another one looking for a few more girls. It didn’t matter – I was on a team sharing all that that means – having 15 or so instant friends, commiserating over having to run a lap, celebrating occasional victories, then going on to play lacrosse for a couple of years at the next level.”
She continued, explaining that the federal Title IX legislation enacted in 1972 – giving all girls’ equal opportunities for athletics participation – “happily began creeping in and many of these girls were looking to us [NEPSAC schools] to take advantage of our focused programs, high level of coaching, and excellent facilities that were being constructed in the style of an arms race.”
Knowing how sports and, more importantly being part of a team, can so positively impact kids, Turner has kept her attention on the students “down the ranks” at reluctant athletes or participants. “These are the kids whose lives, I believe, we seriously impact by our desire and ability to offer them the team experience and all that that entails,” she explained. “Some go on to the next level, a few go on to play in college, and some simply reaffirm that they hate team sports. You can’t succeed with everyone. But you all make sure that they have that opportunity – carrying huge rosters or creating another level, always trying to avoid cutting anyone. The result is that for some kids, you actually change their self-perception and, though they probably won’t play lacrosse as adults, they will see themselves as athletes and not be timid about taking on new sports options.”
Before concluding, Turner gave a nod to junior varsity level coaches. “Some of their players come to them sad or upset because they have been cut from varsity by a coach that they feel can’t recognize talent, others would like to be just about anywhere else, and then you have the rest who simply want to play the game. It’s these coaches’ assignment to bring these kids together and create a great experience through hard work, motivation, and team bonding and they succeed. They don’t have the glory of the varsity coaches but they keep the wheels on the bus and provide valuable experiences to the critical mass of kids who without these programs would not have a chance to compete, value sportsmanship, and work as a team.”
The Distinguished Service Award was presented at NEPSAC’s annual meeting in Worcester, Massachusetts.