WMass titles a family affair for the Thayers

  • Two Pioneer WMass championship trophies are displayed in the Thayer home in Northfield. Wife Erin and her Greenfield High School team won the Division II field hockey title (left), while husband Scott guided his Panther boys’ basketball team to the Division IV crown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Pioneer head coach Scott Thayer directs traffic against Drury in the WMass Division IV semifinals last week at the UMass Amherst’s Curry Hicks Cage. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield coach Erin Thayer, right, shakes hands with Mohawk head coach Lynn Hoeppner after their field hockey game in Buckland last fall. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/13/2018 11:24:40 PM

It’s been quite a school year in the Thayer household.

Two WMass championship trophies from the past five months now reside in their Northfield home, as Scott Thayer joined wife Erin as a WMass champion following his Pioneer Valley Regional School boys’ basketball team’s improbable 59-53 win over Hopkins Academy in the Division IV title game last weekend. It was the first time the couple won sectional titles as varsity coaches in the same year.

Erin had already set the bar high in the fall by leading her Greenfield High School field hockey team to a second consecutive WMass Division II crown with a 2-1 overtime victory over rival Frontier Regional School.

Coaching helped bring the pair together initially. Erin was an assistant under Donna Woodcock at GHS from 1996 until taking over the program as varsity coach in 2006. Scott was an assistant at Pioneer under Perry Messer from 1992 until 1997, then took the varsity job at Greenfield. The two knew of one another, but they met for the first time as young coaches for the Green Wave.

The couple began dating and eventually married in 2001. They have a set of twins in son Brayden and daughter Riley, who just turned 11.

“Our conversations are definitely unlike most married couples when we’re talking about sports,” explained Erin. “But I also know we’re a huge support system for each other as well. When field hockey season comes, my family takes a backseat in some ways because we’re both built that way, where we put 100-percent into what we’re doing. We understand that about each other.”

With Erin and Greenfield rolling through the fall season, Scott’s responsibilities on the home front grew.

“We call it going into ‘Mode,’” he said with a laugh. “I’m cooking dinner, doing pick-up from sport practices for our kids, all the good stuff. It’s what the kids have grown up with. They actually love it. They love the games, going in there and being with the kids on our teams and being at all the different events.”

Scott said he tries to be as helpful as possible to Erin on the coaching front in the fall, despite what he calls a limited knowledge of the sport — “The only thing I know about field hockey is when the ball hits the back of the thing.”

“It’s kind of like I’m pseudo on staff during her season,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I’ll bounce ideas off her and vice-versa and then we talk about it. And I’ve gotten a lot out of learning about the thought process of sports from another individual who is really good at what she does. For me, it’s been a great avenue and another way to understand the dynamics of kids.”

With Greenfield making a run to the WMass title game and ultimately winning in thrilling overtime fashion, Scott said watching his wife and her team from the stands along the way was not easy.

“The only time I get nervous coaching is that moment when I’m just about to leave the house to get into my truck and go to meet the bus,” he began. “That five to six minute drive is the only time, really. But watching her, it’s a helpless feeling. You have to take the being-a-coach-aspect out of it. You have no control. You can’t help her. So I’d definitely say when I’m on the sidelines myself, there’s more of a calmness because I’m involved and in the moment.”

After Greenfield won the WMass field hockey title and fell in the state semifinals to Oakmont Regional High School, the winter season began quickly. That meant it was time for Scott and Pioneer to begin their march toward what ultimately became a WMass championship season.

“The last couple of years, there’s really been no downtime,” offered Erin of the fall into winter season sprint. “I think what really happens, and that’s part of the support we have for each other, is roles just reverse. When I’m fully entrenched in it, he’s a single parent for a lot of things. Then the roles reverse come winter-time.”

Scott said he took a lot of what Erin does as far as team-building with her team into this Pioneer season. A lot of it came with team feeds and gatherings, and the Panthers had a spaghetti dinner before every postseason game en route to beating Hopkins for the title.

“The way she creates her team chemistry and the things she does with her team outside the games, I’ve picked up a lot of that,” he admitted. “We don’t do it to the same extent they do, but I think the bonding and things that happened outside of the basketball court really helped us this year.”

With Pioneer playing a pair of adrenaline-pumping thrillers at the Cage in knocking off Drury High School in the semifinals and Hopkins in the finals, stress in the stands was a constant for Erin and the Pioneer faithful.

“I think it’s way harder to sit in the stands and watch him than it is on the sidelines,” she explained. “Being in the stands, I can’t handle it. But when it’s me out there, it’s my team. I’m involved. I’m worrying about strategy and different elements, so it’s a much different feeling.”

Now that Pioneer’s postseason run is complete following Monday’s state semifinal loss to Maynard High School, the Thayer family has a much-needed and welcome breather for the spring season. While Scott has coached Brayden’s baseball team in Northfield over the past few years, neither he nor Erin has the full-time high school coaching commitment. That means they can ease back out of their ‘Mode’ and into the ‘off-season’ schedule, so to speak.

“We’ve had dinner on the run for the past three weeks, but we always sit down as a family and have dinner, then play Bananagrams or Yahtzee after dinner,” Erin explained. “Spring is our downtime. As busy as we are between baseball for Brayden and horseback riding for Riley, we get to decompress a bit.”

What about the future? With the twins creeping closer to their high school years, do mom and dad still have their eyes set on continuing to coach their respective programs?

“As long as we’re enjoying it and having fun, I don’t see an end in sight for either one of us,” Erin offered.

Scott shared her sentiment.

“Right now, we’re all on the same page,” he said. “It’s been such a positive for our family. For the near future, we’re gonna keep doing it.”

With the success the pair has had, this may not be the last time they win WMass titles in the same school-year.

Stay tuned.

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