BY RICKY POLLITT
A good coach is hard to find.
A good coach must have leadership, knowledge, experience and certainly passion for the game.
Salisbury’s field hockey team may not just have a good coach, they may have the best coach in Dawn Chamberlin.
Four National Championships, 21-straight NCAA tournament appearances, and 18 CAC Championship wins are some of the highlights of Chamberlin’s career.
Coming to Salisbury in 1987, the 29-year head coach has turned the Sea Gulls into a powerhouse in Division III. She’s transformed players into All-Americans, Hall of Famers and has seen some players go on to coach field hockey for themselves.
A 1985 graduate of the University of Iowa, where she was a four-year letter winner on the highly successful field hockey team, Chamberlin helped lead the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten Championship outright for three straight years (1981-83).
Her leadership also did not go unnoticed as she was Iowa’s co-captain as both a junior and senior. Along with dominating at field hockey, Chamberlin was also a member of the national indoor championship team and was selected to the All-Big Ten team during her senior year.
Since coming to Salisbury, one of Chamberlin’s biggest strengths has been recruiting. Every season she is able to bring in freshman from all around that contribute from day one.
“(Chamberlin) influenced my decision because she had a great mindset and I knew she had a lot of experience coming into this season,” sophomore forward Natalie Wilkinson said. “I want to win a national championship, and she knows how to do it.”
Out of the four national titles Chamberlin has won, three of them came in the span of three years; 2003-05, something that has never been done in Division III field hockey. Winning has been a common occurrence for the Sea Gulls, as they have not missed the playoffs since 1993.
“Successful athletes want to continue to be successful, and they want to know they can go somewhere that’s going to win,” Chamberlin said. “If (the players) learn how to work hard and take initiative, they can get what they want, and (the coaching staff) teaches them that.”
Salisbury players know they are learning from one of the best when signing on to play for Chamberlin.
She was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Hall of Fame on Jan. 17, 2009, and earned her 400th career win on Sept. 29, 2012, to become just the fifth field hockey coach in NCAA Division III history to reach the milestone. She also became the 12th field hockey coach to win 400 at any NCAA level.
This past October, Chamberlin saw three of her former players inducted into the SU Hall of Fame.
One inductee, Stacie Gado, a coach at Marriotts Ridge High School takes messages and tactics Chamberlin uses and applies them towards her own players.
“I like to feel that (what) I learned from Dawn was her passion, her desire, her motivation that I’m now able to give back to my athletes I’m able to coach today,” Gado said.
Year after year players achieve success and recognition under Chamberlin’s leadership.
She has coached 60 Division III All-Americans and 120 NFHCA All-South Region players. The Sea Gulls were honored with eight-straight CAC Player of the Year awards from 2002-09, and 15 overall in the past 19 years.
Even with Chamberlin’s intense desire to win, she makes sure her athletes realize they are at SU not only to play sports but to earn an education as well.
“At a DIII school you’re not just an athlete, you’re a student-athlete. We can offer you everything you possibly need to be successful and have a foundation for your future success,” Chamberlin said.
She may not be the loudest coach, but Chamberlin is definitely one of the toughest. She runs a very organized ship where players know exactly where they need to be and how they need to execute something.
Chamberlin’s success speaks for itself; she is one of the most successful coaches ever to come through SU in any sport.
Many coaches have come to Salisbury and left big marks on their programs, but none have had more of an impact than Dawn Chamberlin.
“We’re always working hard,” Chamberlin said. “We’re willing to put in the extra work to achieve our goal.”