MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Head field hockey coach at Mechanicsburg High School, Tonya Brown, was honored by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association as one of the 24 2022-2023 PIAA/NFHS Coaches of the Year on Oct. 18.
“It’s a definition of what this team was all about because we can only receive accolades like this, personal accolades like this, from a team,” said Brown.
Brown is the first Mechanicsburg coach to ever receive the award. This comes on the heels of her and her team making history last season by earning the Wildcat’s first team state championship in history.
Brown’s girls were crowned the 2022 2A State Champions after defeating Palmyra 1-0 in a nail-biting overtime match.
“They worked very hard to get there and we beat a really good team that day,” Brown said. ” It was really a huge accomplishment and very exciting and definitely still some days hard to believe.”
Mechanicsburg played a full 10 minutes of overtime, which Brown said Palmyra dominated. The Wildcats held them off and netted the game-winner with 30 seconds remaining.
Brown calls that win the “pinnacle” of her coaching career.
The accomplished coach’s journey to that moment began after she graduated from Messiah. Brown began coaching the junior varsity field hockey team at Mechanicsburg that fall in 1986. She later began splitting her time between field hockey at Mechanicsburg and coaching 7th and 8th grade basketball at Camp Hill. In 1989 she began solely coaching field hockey for the Wildcats where she has stayed since.
It has been special for Brown to have this role at Mechanicsburg because she herself played field hockey, along with basketball and softball, at the school from 1979 to 1982.
“I am very fortunate in the fact that I was coached by some really great people that I wanted to go back to Mechanicsburg ever since I played there,” Brown said. “It’s just that deep tradition of love for the Wildcats.”
Brown has had the opportunity to coach two generations of players. Brown stated that she is now coaching the daughters of mothers who formerly played for her at Mechanicsburg.
Brown tries to use her role not only to build strong athletes but to help develop well-rounded individuals.
“I really try to keep in mind that this is high school sports and only 4% are going to go on to play at the college level,” Brown said. “I really try to concentrate on those other 96% too.”
Brown does this by keeping her players focused on completing items from a list of “10 things that require no talent”. This list reminds students that there are pathways to success that require no athletic ability.
The list includes things such as punctuality and supporting your teammates.
“What I’m focusing on [is] making them better individuals, better employees, better citizens for the future of our community and country,” Brown said.
Brown wants all students to experience the benefits of working with a team and playing field hockey. She does this by continuing a tradition started by her predecessor.
Mechanicsburg has special needs students who are always on their sidelines and these kids receive an opportunity to play and score during matches. Brown says that watching them play has been one of the highlights of her career.
“It really brings tears to your eyes to see the joy of one of those students scoring during a game and how our team is so excited to back them,” Brown said.
This PIAA award is not the first time Brown has been recognized for her coaching. Last year, Brown was nominated for National Field Hockey Coach of the Year after Mechanicsburg dominated in a tournament in Philadelphia that consisted of the top 50 teams in the country.
“I’m honored to be part of the field hockey coaches in Central Pa because this area is . . .the hotbed of field hockey. Many students go on to division one level, division two to play coming out of this area. So to be nominated [for PIAA/NFHS Coach of the Year] . . . it’s very difficult to put into words.”