When Kathy Andrews was growing up in Chatham, she longed to play baseball like her older brothers, but back then girls weren't allowed to play. Fast forward a few years and Andrews is celebrating her recent induction into the New Agenda Northeast Hall of Fame.
Andrews, a longtime coach and physical education teacher at Monomoy Regional Middle School, was nominated by Mary McGrath Dowling and Cheryl Poore, something she said was humbling.
“I've coached for a long time, but usually with things like this it's based on your win/loss record and your tournament victories,” Andrews said. “Chatham was very small and we were competitive in some things, but I don't have a great win/loss record.”
But the Hall of Fame isn't about that. It's about what Andrews has contributed to women's sports and girls athletics, and there has been much.
Andrews started coaching right out of college, graduating in 1983 from American International College with a degree in business administration and a minor in coaching.
“I started coaching in the fall with Joe Nickerson, who was my basketball coach,” Andrews said.
Nickerson offered her the opportunity to coach middle school hoops, watching from the sidelines as she held her first practice.
“I've got 20 middle school girls and he's like, 'Kathy, go out there and teach them how to do a layup,'” Andrews recalled.
After Andrews quickly demonstrated the move, Nickerson pulled her aside and told her she'd need to break the move down into smaller steps for her players. The lesson ultimately had deeper meaning for Andrews, who realized that a good deal of coaching is teaching, which led to her entering the education fray.
“I was working for my mom's tailoring business and just decided that I really kind of liked this teaching thing,” Andrews said.
She headed back to school, eventually earning a phys ed degree from Bridgewater State before returning to her hometown area where, save for a year in California, she's been teaching and coaching since, something that suits her just fine. Her history includes coaching field hockey at the middle school, junior varsity and varsity levels, JV and varsity softball, and middle school, JV and varsity basketball for both boys and girls.
When Chatham and Harwich merged to become the Monomoy Regional School District, most of the available coaching positions went to Harwich coaches so Andrews joined forces with boys middle school basketball before coaching middle school girls field hockey, which has had a stellar run during her tenure.
When pondering her success, Andrews figured she'd had a few good seasons. Then her principal told her, “I've been here all four years and you've been undefeated all four years.”
“I'm living the dream as this middle school field hockey coach,” Andrews said. “Because having done my varsity for Chatham and not having those feeder programs, I had kids that had just picked up a field hockey stick. With these kids, I can't touch their skills.”
Because her teams have had such strong skills, Andrews has been able to impart more of the whys and what-abouts, giving players some history of the game and the reasons it's played as it is. Her motto is that she not only wants them to be skilled field hockey players, she wants them to also be knowledgeable.
Andrews said that coaching is one of the most rewarding roles of her adult life for myriad reasons.
“Once you see the kids start doing the things that you're working on, you take that journey with them again as you were as a player and learning how to do something, learning the sport, not just the skills, but the knowledge behind it,” she said. “Then to see those things executed in a game, to the point where you can end up doing very little coaching other than substituting.
Ensuring that girls have the chance to participate in sports is also important.
“I just think it's so they know that the opportunity is there,” Andrews said. “I have them in physical education class and I can see how they hold back. I think athletics gives them the confidence to get over that. I think that's a lot of what Joe Webster and I do here. We encourage the girls.”
Andrews said that growing up in an athletic family was a plus, and that sports helped her find her own strengths.
“I guess it was kind of in my blood,” she said. “Being rather shy and reserved, athletics gave me that boost to be more confident. I think once you get that feeling you grow from it. I see, especially with my middle school field hockey girls, how confident they've become because they have that sport. They're getting a lot of positive role models involved in their lives. They're taking more leadership roles.”
Andrews has seen once quiet girls become more outspoken in strong ways through the confidence instilled in them by athletics. She offered the example of a student who, in fifth grade, was one of the quietest in the class.
“Just to watch her grow and find her voice is unbelievable,” Andrews said.
Seeing her kids succeed is one of the best aspects of her career.
“Sports gives you such an opportunity to run the gauntlet of emotions,” she said. “That elation, you can't really put it into words. It's something you have to feel.”
Choosing a favorite sport, however, is a challenge. Andrews has played everything from softball to field hockey, as well as basketball, and also ice hockey, which suited her affinity for moving quickly.
Andrews even inspired her mother to get involved in coaching, with Helen quickly becoming a beloved local mentor known affectionately as Grammy and The Shot Doctor.
“She would take them off to the side and work with them,” Andrews said.
Taking her place among other noteworthy women in athletics has been heady.
“I'm pretty humbled by this. I looked on the list of the coaches that are in there,” Andrews said.
Such names include Cheryl Poore, Mary McGrath Dowling, Angie Chilaka. Andrews also gave a nod to Joe Nickerson, who she said she's most like in her coaching, as well as Nauset basketball coach Leo Miller.
“As I went down through the states, my AIC softball coach is on that list. My AIC basketball coach is on that list,” Andrews said. “I've taken a little bit of all of them into my coaching.”
As the future continues to unfold, Andrews sticks with some timeless advice.
“Always be open to learning things. Winning is not the only thing. Back your kids 100 percent,” Andrews said. “That's why I come back to family. I just try to do my best by the kids.”