Cathy McGuirk doesn’t look at how many wins she’s accumulated in her career that often.
She couldn’t help but know what that number was going into the 2014 high school field hockey season. Sitting at 499 wins for 10 months, all the 38-year veteran Branford High coach needed was one single win to get to the magic 500th win.
It took less than two hours of the season for her to reach that. Last Tuesday, McGuirk notched No. 500 with a 3-0 victory over Sacred Heart Academy of Hamden.
With a few minutes left in the game before No. 500 was in the books, McGuirk started thinking about all the years she had been coaching.
“The kids were thinking a lot about it and anticipating it,” McGuirk said. “I didn’t think I would get emotional, but when I saw the kids’ faces and thought about all the kids and all the years I’ve been coaching, it was a nice feeling. They concentrated very much on this milestone and were excited about it.”
With victories over Hamden and Guilford as well last week, she’s now has a lofty record of 502-111-62-9 over the 38 years. Do the math and that’s it’s nearly 13.3 victories a season with less than three losses a year.
“Thirteen wins a year is a fantastic thing to happen,” McGuirk said. “We work at it, take the kids we get and put it together. Last year was the first year since the 1970s when we didn’t have a winning record (the Hornets were 8-9).
In addition to the 500 victories, McGuirk has won 10 state championships at Branford, including four straight CIAC Class M titles from 1988-91. The Hornets have reached the semifinals 27 times and the state finals 14 times, including eight straight appearances from 1984 to 1991.
McGuirk is now sixth all-time in field hockey wins according to the National Federation Of State High School Associations Record Book. She is first in Connecticut by nearly 100 wins as Cheshire’s Arlene Salvati went 419-88-61 from 1969-2001.
In 35 of her 38 seasons, her husband, John, has been by her side as an assistant coach.
“I really never thought about it,” McGuirk said. “I just kept coaching, had good teams and great teams. You strive to do well and have the kids get better.”
Next up, could 600 wins be in her sights?
“Many people have asked John and I about it because we do it as a team,” said McGuirk. “We enjoy what we’re doing and we don’t have any date in mind to not do it anymore. If we do it long enough and win enough games, 600 is a possibility.”
No one should doubt her one single bit.