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30 years of success: a glimpse of Dawn Chamberlin's winning culture

Salisbury field hockey head coach Dawn Chamberlin’s success as a coach began with her time as a player.

Chamberlin began laying the foundation for her legendary career as the head coach for Salisbury’s field hockey program in 1985, but the college years that came before proved invaluable for Chamberlin as a leader.

Chamberlin played her collegiate field hockey at the University of Iowa, where she was a four-year letter winner. She was named a co-captain in her final two seasons for the Hawkeyes and experienced three straight Big Ten championships from 1981 to 1983.

As a Hawkeye, Chamberlin collected the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Academic award from 1982 to 1985 and the Physical Education Academic Achievement award from 1983 to 1985.

Chamberlin graduated from Iowa in 1985 and was hired to be the head coach of Salisbury University field hockey in 1987. She also earned her Master of Education at Salisbury in the same year, 1987.

She went on to get her doctorate from the University of Maryland in 2000. This dedication to both academic and athletic improvement is something Chamberlin echoes in her coaching style.

Chamberlin said her experience from a young age and throughout college has contributed to her success at Salisbury.

“I’ve been playing since the fourth grade and all throughout college,” Chamberlin said. “Spring of sophomore year, my college coach made me a captain, so I really learned how to be a leader on the fly.”

Salisbury has won four national championships with Chamberlin at the helm, with the team claiming three consecutive titles from 2003 to 2005 and adding the fourth in 2009.

Chamberlin is currently ranked third among active coaches and fifth all-time in Division III with 502 victories. She has directed her Sea Gulls to 21 Capital Athletic Conference championships and 15 continuous CAC championships from 1995 to 2011.

In 2009, Chamberlin was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Chamberlin believed that being inducted into the NFHCA Hall of Fame was about more than her personal achievements. She felt strongly that her long-term success came from the many players and assistant coaches who have helped along the way.

“It was something that was really special and something that was earned as a result of all the great field hockey players that I’ve had come through here,” Chamberlin said. “All the great assistant coaches that I’ve had, and it’s not something that I have earned on my own, it was a group effort.”

Not only do Chamberlin’s players produce on the field, they thrive in the classroom as well. There have been 185 National Academic Squad members and 18 CAC Player of the Year honorees.

Since 1987, Chamberlin has coached 65 Division III All-Americans. In 29 of her 30 years, there has been a least one All-American in each season at Salisbury.

Whether it is individual help that Chamberlin provides or providing extra work behind the scenes, Chamberlin does what is needed to put her team in a position to win and help each player reach their full potential.

Junior goalkeeper Dom Farrace expressed that when she first came to Salisbury, she was not at the physical level that collegiate sports demand. Chamberlin helped Farrace work to get fit and up to speed.

“When I first came, I was not in the shape to where I should be at the collegiate level, and coach pushed me to be at that fitness level,” Farrace said. “I had that somewhat in high school, but when I came here, I feel like she pushed me to be such a better player overall.”

Farrace has since emerged as one of the top goalies in Division III field hockey, a credit to the job Chamberlin has done as her mentor. She currently ranks 14th in Division III with a .860 goals against average.

A lot of aspects go into a successful coach, but it is the way Chamberlin shapes her players into adults and focuses on team chemistry that stands out as a factor of the team’s success.

Two-time All-American senior defender Jillian Hughes said that Chamberlin demands

success from her players, which helps push them to their absolute best.

“She always has us hold each other accountable, we hold her accountable and she holds us accountable,” Hughes said. “She is very hardworking as a coach, she is constantly watching film and she dedicates so much of her time to us, and we just want to give that back to her on the field.”

Chamberlin looks beyond talent; she looks for players that can fit the culture of Salisbury field hockey. The recruiting process is essential in prolonging good team chemistry for 30 years and beyond.

Chamberlin said that the qualities of the individual are just as important as their skill on the field, if not more so.

“Well, to me, it’s about the person, it’s about the character, and the skill is almost secondary,” Chamberlin said. “Sure, the skill catches your eye, but I want to find out about the person, if they have good leadership skills, are they doing the right thing academically and doing the right thing by their team.”

As of Oct. 8, Chamberlin’s Sea Gulls are ranked third in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll behind only Middlebury College and The College of New Jersey.



Staff writer

Featured photo: Sports Information image.

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