Saturday, December 03, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

O’Brien Excited to Coach Lacrosse at Her Alma Mater

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Former Hornets’ lacrosse player Cait O’Brien is back at Branford High School as the new head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team this spring. Photo courtesy of Cait O’Brien

Former Hornets’ lacrosse player Cait O’Brien is back at Branford High School as the new head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team this spring. (Photo courtesy of Cait O’Brien)

After growing up in Branford and playing lacrosse for the Hornets, Cait O’Brien dreamed of becoming the team’s coach one day. Now, Cait’s dream has turned into a reality as she recently began her first season as head coach of the Branford girls’ lacrosse squad.

Cait has a good relationship with former Hornets’ coach Billy Alessi. When Alessi stepped down from the role, he reached out to Cait about potentially taking the reins. Cait thought about the job and knew that she had to go for it since it was something that had always been in the back of her mind.

“Growing up, my dream was always to be a teacher and to coach at the high school. I’ve been wanting to do it my whole life, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go for it,” says Cait, a 2013 Branford graduate who teaches kindergarten in New Haven. “It meant everything. I was so excited. All I want is to be here for a long time and build this program up. Getting the job was anything I could have dreamed for.”

Before she was a coach, Cait was a standout lacrosse player at both the high school and college levels. Cait began playing lacrosse for Branford’s youth program in 2nd grade. While she played other sports such as soccer, ice hockey, and field hockey, Cait always felt like she was “meant to play lacrosse” her whole life.

Cait played lacrosse through her senior year at Branford, earning All-SCC Second Team honors as the Hornets’ Offensive MVP. Cait went on to play four years of lacrosse at the University of New Haven. In her senior year, she was named to Northeast-10 All-Conference Second Team.

Cait, who still lives in Branford, learned how to be coachable during her time as an athlete. She understood how to ask questions and take advice from her coaches. Now that she’s on the sidelines, Cait feels that her experience as a lacrosse player has molded her into the coach she is today.

“I was a really coachable player and wanted to learn. Taking that into coaching, I appreciate the girls that are coming up to me and asking questions,” Cait says. “I will never get mad for asking questions. Being a player, I wanted to get better and I wanted to learn. I love when my girls show that they want to be out there and they want to learn, too.”

In 2020, Cait became an assistant coach for the women’s lacrosse team at Southern Connecticut State University. When she got that opportunity, Cait knew that coaching was going to be a big part of her future.

“I love helping girls get better. I want to study the sport as if it’s a subject in school,” says Cait. “Once I knew I was doing that, I knew I had to be coaching. When I went to Southern, I knew I had to be doing this forever.”

As a coach, Cait’s goals are to make sure that her players are having fun and always looking to improve. Cait plans on motivating her athletes to realize their potential. In her first year as Branford’s head coach, Cait is already seeing the Hornets adapt to that mindset.

“I’m going to push them. I set high expectations, but they’re realistic expectations. I only push them because I know they could get there,” Cait says. “It’s really great to see them putting it all together and playing the best they can.”

Branford Athletic Director Tom Ermini is thrilled to have Cait on board as the Hornets’ new head coach. Along with her experience on the field, Ermini believes that Cait’s deep ties to both the program and her community will help the squad prosper.

“Cait brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm that our students really feed off of. As an alumni, she cares deeply about the team and is committed to building our program,” says Ermini. “I’m excited to see how the program grows under her leadership.”

On April 8, Branford hosted Mercy came away with a 17-11 victory for its the first win with Cait as head coach. While she was excited to walk off the field victorious, Cait is hoping that win will be the first of many during her tenure with the Hornets.

“It was great. I’ve only got 99 more to 100. I plan on being here as long as I can be,” Cait says. “It was really exciting. I was just happy that we won. Everyone thought we weren’t going to be the strongest, but these girls are mighty. We fought until the end. They deserved to win that game.”

Like any coach in the state, Cait is hoping to take the Branford girls’ lacrosse team back to the top as a state title contender. However, before she does that, Cait knows that she needs to build a foundation. Cait wants to foster a culture where every athlete feels proud to be on the field and playing lacrosse in Branford.

“I want to build a culture where the girls want to be out on the field, they love their team, they love their coaching staff, and they love their sport. I want this to be a place where they feel comfortable,” says Cait. “It would be great to win a state championship, but at this time, all I care about is the girls’ future. I just expect them to keep working every day.”


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