An Era Ends
By Laura Foerster

If there ever was a time to thank a coach it's now. As the US Team head coach and national women's program leader for 20 years and the head coach at Old Dominion University for 16, Sue Stahl influenced most of the top level women's players in the US for two generations and every young woman who played for the Monarchs from All-American to walk-on. Hundreds, if not thousands of us owe her a thanks, so here's mine.

Sue Stahl's list of accomplishments is too long to read. She doesn't hang her hat on them so I won't either but a few need mentioning. As an athlete Sue was special, starring in four sports in college and representing the US on both the national hockey and lacrosse teams. As a coach, perhaps none are held higher in esteem and service as Stahl, who was actually named the Women's Lacrosse Coach of the Century after earning countless accolades and leading the US Women's program for decades. Most notable are her sixteen years as head coach at Old Dominion University, four consecutive World Cup gold medals as the US Team Coach and a Diane Geppi-Aikens Award.

Stahl, who's 2005 US team took the Silver Medal for the first time in her long stay at the helm, announced this year that she would not be reapplying for the position of US World Cup Coach. When asked why she chose not to reapply for the position she said, "It's the right time for me not to do it." Stahl who has two grandchildren now, makes clear that the position was rewarding but very demanding. The job she leaves and Sue Heether takes over is not just as coach for the World Cup, but as leader for the US Elite program for the four years leading up to a World Cup event. "It's a four year commitment," added Stahl. "It's been a great honor and time for me to coach these girls," Says Stahl who leaves a great foundation for those who follow in her path. The legacy Sue is leaving behind will be a tough act to follow with four gold medals and a Silver in the US trophy case and thousands of lives touched over her years of service to the USA.

But Coach Stahl's not "retiring". She is still playing her most central, grounding and critical role, as the coach and mentor to the ODU women, like me and like Anne Windover, a 1997 Old Dominion graduate, Niagara head coach and Stahl devotee. Windover boasts quite a resume herself, but the 3-time All-American and 1996 Monarch MVP attributes much of it to Stahl's coaching. Most notable in Windover's career as it pertains to Stahl is her participation in the World Cup, as an opponent. Windover played on the 1993 Canadian World Cup Team and was the tournament's leading scorer. As both a former opponent in World Cup, and a former player at ODU, Windover has had a unique view of the legendary Stahl. "I chose ODU because of her," says Windover. "She's one of the best, if not the best coach in women's lacrosse." Windover says she models her coaching style and coaching philosophy after Stahl's when she is on the field with her Niagara team, instilling high levels of expectation and the ethics to achieve them.

Stahl won't blow her own horn or lament any losses in her career, but will tell you all about the memories of her unique experience that didn't make the papers or lax publications. At the 1997 Japan World Cup in Edagowa-City, the US team had a 25 minute walk to the fields! There was a subway but no one could figure out the language and how to use the trains. Another time the team was not aware of a weight limitation on their bags. In the airport the whole team had to consolidate and only bring the necessities. Team members had to stuff everything that was excess into another bag and pay to ship it home with all of the girls trying to figure out whose personal effects belonged to who at a later time. In 1989, Australian Airlines was on strike and the US Team and planners did not know this. The team was stuck for one week in Perth. How did they get to Sydney? The Australian Royal Air Force of course! Even the fans and family members hitched a ride. During the week in Perth, the team held makeshift practices in a public park with just a few lacrosse balls.

Sue likes to talk up her players too. She reflects that each team has been special and an honor to coach. What she most impresses most upon her players, through acts and words, from college to the elite is that you have to give back to the game. Lacrosse has allowed Stahl and many others to travel the world while exposing the sport to new areas. To "instill the love of the game" is one of the greatest things you can do as a coach according to Sue.

As a player for Sue at Old Dominion, I saw her consistently develop and educate players, not just with the intricacies of our game but the overall philosophy of sport. Stahl tells a young woman visiting ODU on a recruiting trip that at the end of four years she will be graduating a young woman who has more than an education. She tells them they are fortunate enough to play at the top level of lacrosse and that she will expect them to give back to the game and be an inspiration when possible and a volunteer when needed, giving others a chance at many opportunities through lacrosse. And she tells them they will be rewarded with invaluable experiences, travels and memories. And I can tell you she's right. Lacrosse has allowed me personally to receive an excellent education, meet great people, travel the world over, and coach the game, passing on my experience and knowledge, hopefully opening opportunities for my players like Sue has done for so many of us over so many years.

Thanks Sue for all that you've done, and continue to do for us, the players, and the sport.

  • 16 year Head coach of the Old Dominion Lady Monarch women's lacrosse team.
  • 3-time CAA Coach of the Year
  • International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Association Coach of the Year
  • Coach of the All- Century Team
  • International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Association Coach of the Year
  • Head coach of the U.S. national team with four world titles
  • Inductee of the United States, Virginia and Pennsylvania Lacrosse Halls of Fame
  • Diane Geppi-Aikens Award from the IWLCA for lifetime achievement and commitment to the sport
  • Four-sport athlete in lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, and softball, inducted into the Ursinus College Hall of Fame in 1985
  • Member of both the United Sates lacrosse (1956-67) and field hockey (1964-67) national teams
  • Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA)
  • United States Women's Lacrosse Association (USWLA)
  • US Lacrosse Board of Directors
  • US Lacrosse Women's Division Boards of Directors

Photos by John Strohsacker.


January 26, 2005


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