MANCHESTER -- There will be a changing of the guard when the soccer season at Burr and Burton Academy comes around next fall.
Earlier this week BBA announced that Suzanne Mears has been chosen to replace long time varsity girls soccer coach Dan DeForest who will be retiring at the end of this school year.
"Today marks a new beginning for the BBA girls soccer team, and I am happy that Suzanne Mears will be leading us," said BBA Headmaster Mark Tashjian in a press release issued by the school. "She has a tremendous legacy on which to build, and I look forward to what lies ahead for BBA girl's soccer, as well as the excitement she will bring for the team and its fans."
For the past six years Mears has been a junior varsity coach at Twin Valley High School and also assisted varsity coach Chris Walling periodically at the varsity level.
When she saw the advertisement for a coaching position at BBA, Mears said she jumped at the opportunity.
"Burr and Burton Academy, has always been something that I've had my eye on since I moved here. [It's a] very attractive program and school altogether," said Mears. "I saw the posting and it was just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. It was something that I knew if I let it go by I would heavily regret so I jumped on it as soon as could."
Mears said that her first order of business will be getting to know the returning members of the team as soon as possible.
"My goal in the next couple of months before our preseason even kicks off is to do my best to get to know them and meet with them as much as I can, maybe even get some side soccer going on," she said. "I'm meeting with Kathi in the next couple of weeks so I hope to have a lot more answers then in terms of what I can do moving forward at this point. It's really just getting my face around town and getting my foot in the door and allowing myself to get to know these girls so we already have that connection on day one."
For Mears, being the head of a soccer program has been a goal for a number of years.
Mears was a four year starter at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Mass., which is a high quality Division I program. There she was a three time DCL All-Star and was First Team All Eastern Conference. Mears was also a four year starter for Saint Michaels College - which is in the Northeast 10 D II Conference. There she was All Conference and holds the school record for most goals in a half with 4.
Mears moved to Vermont in 2006 after having lived in both Boston and Acton, Mass. After graduating with a degree in psychology from Saint Michaels College in 2004, Mears earned her masters degree in school counseling from UMass Boston in 2006.
In addition to her coaching and playing experience, Mears said that she was raised in a family of soccer coaches -- something that gave her a greater understanding of the positon.
"My father, my three brothers all currently coach and it's something that has just always been a part of who I am. [It's] in my family, it's in my blood I feel like and I've been around it. I've seen what it takes to be a coach and the head of a program So, with my playing experiences, my personal and family experiences and then also my coaching experiences I've had over the past six years, I feel like I'm ready for this."
In DeForest's 36 years of coaching -- the last 27 of which were spent as the varsity girls head coach -- he compiled a 278-107-15 record and won four state championships. He received the National Coach of the Year Award for the National Federation Coaches Association in 2000 - the year that he also won his third consecutive state championship. During that time, his three consecutive state championship teams won 37 consecutive games, including a perfect 17-0 season.
DeForest was named Marble Valley League coach of the year 10 times, received the Vermont Large School Coach of the Year Award in 1999, 2002, and 2009; the Vermont Private Parochial School Coach of the Year Award in 2009 and the Twin State Coach of the Year Award in 2000 and 2003. He has eight league championships to his credit and won three Lady Patriot Classics in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
Despite all the success that DeForest has had as soccer coach at the school, Mears said she is not intimidated by the legacy he has left behind. "I realize the legend that was before me," she said. "I don't see that as a challenge in terms of filling his shoes. It's something that is an honor to do, but I'm up for it. I want to maintain the success that's already been ongoing for many, many years. I feel fortunate that they chose me and they feel confident that I can do that."