Danielle Simoneau came to a realization after she stepped down as head coach of the New Canaan softball team following the 2017 season.
“I just realized that I’m better inside the lines than outside the lines,” Simoneau said.
Simoneau will be back on the diamond this spring as she returns to the Rams as a co-coach alongside Joel Geriak, who was her assistant before taking over as head coach in 2018.
Simoneau had stepped down after seven years as head coach in order to watch her daughter, Mackenzie Bruggeman, play as a freshman at Trumbull High. Bruggeman is now a senior, and Simoneau felt that it was time to return to coaching the sport she loves.
“I missed it,” Simoneau said. “I missed coaching, and I missed being involved during the season. I’m not a very good watcher, so I figured let me go back and do what I enjoy doing.”
Bruggeman, an All-FCIAC first-team player as a sophomore in 2019, has committed to play at Assumption University next year and should have a big role as a senior with the Eagles.
“I’m excited for (Mackenzie),” Simoneau said. “They’re going to do well and she’s going to contribute and do what she has to do to help out the team.
“She’ll do her thing and I’ll do mine and we’ll meet up at home.”
New Canaan’s coaching staff is loaded with experience and victories.
Simoneau was a star pitcher at Westhill and the University of Hartford in the 1990s, and her time as head coach at New Canaan includes an 84-69 record and an FCIAC championship in 2013 — the Rams lone conference title.
Geriak was an assistant boys basketball coach for Jeff Bussey at NCHS, and is now the head coach of the Wilton basketball team, turning the Warriors into a consistent contender. Geriak was named the FCIAC Coach of the Year this winter.
Also on the staff is Rich Bulan, head coach of the New Canaan girls ice hockey team. Bulan has more than 500 career victories and just won an FCIAC championship this winter.
Simoneau never completely left the New Canaan softball team as she continued working with many of the players in the program for the past few years. But this season will mark her return to in-game coaching.
“Joel and I are splitting the duties and it doesn’t matter who’s the head coach,” Simoneau said. “We’re just glad to be out there and having a season because it was touch-and-go for a little while whether it was going to happen.”
With two years having passed since the last softball game, every team in the state is nearly a clean slate. The Rams are returning seven players who had varsity playing time in 2019 and also have strong groups at the sophomore and freshman level, according to Simoneau.
“We’ve been going over basics,” Simoneau said. “So it’s getting their feet wet and going skill by skill to determine who’s going to do best at what position. At the end of the day, we’re on the softball field. This is where we wished we were last year so we’re making every second count.”
New Canaan has five pitchers to work with: Juniors Ava Biasotti, Faith Hibbert, Caroline Welch and Lauren Mellas, and sophomore Mia Sanseverino.
“When you have pitchers and catchers, you can make things work, so I’m excited about it,” Simoneau said.
While she’s back coaching her old team, Simoneau won’t have to wait long to see her daughter play again. The Rams will visit Trumbull on Friday, April 16.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” the coach said of that game. “It’ll be bittersweet and we’ll congratulate whoever wins after, but during the game it’s Trumbull against New Canaan. I told my New Canaan girls ‘yeah, my daughter is on that team, but my goal is to do everything possible to get New Canaan to win’”