Coach Sharon Sarsen has been around amateur sports most of her life.
But it is her extraordinary devotion to Lakeland Field Hockey that has created her legacy — and her legend. She has held the role of Lakeland Varsity Girls Field Hockey Coach for the past 40 years.
Her winning ways also have boosted the Lakeland/Panas Varsity Girls Lacrosse teams she has led, a joint program comprised of student athletes from the district’s two high schools — Lakeland and Walter Panas.
After a storied career, this past July Coach Sarsen was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA).
“When I heard I was selected, I was excited,” the super-successful coach told River Journal North, “but I was more proud of the fact that it was the people from Lakeland — my co-coaches and administrators — who nominated me for the award.”
The newly-minted Hall of Famer’s athletic achievements began well before she stepped foot on the Lakeland and Panas campuses. At SUNY Cortland, Sarsen was a multi-sport athlete in field hockey and lacrosse. Upon graduation, it was a natural transition to move into a coaching role.
There was a job opening at Lakeland, and Sarsen jumped at the opportunity.
In the springtime, Sarsen has led a lacrosse program that also ranked among the best in the state. Between 1986 and 2015, her team won 381 games. That placed her second all-time in New York State, before her retirement from lacrosse five years ago.
In the fall, as Varsity Field Hockey Coach, Sarsen has set records unmatched in all of New York State.
Her 672 wins are the most in the history of New York State high school athletics. She has coached 20 Section 1 titles, 30 league championships, and 13 state titles.
From 2009-2017, Lakeland Girls Field Hockey captured the state championship every year.
On the lax field, the records also came as fast as the goals: 13 sectional championships, 12 league titles, four state Final 4 appearances.
Aside from coaching, Sarsen’s presence was felt elsewhere in the Lakeland School District. At Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School, Sarsen was a long-time physical education teacher and athletic coordinator.
She retired from teaching this past June, but hopes to remain the high school’s field hockey coach for at least another year. After that, her future in the sport is unknown.
“I don’t plan very well,” she joked.
In her four decades at Lakeland, Sarsen has influenced the lives of countless students, coaches, and administrators.
She acknowledges a long list of people who made her longevity at Lakeland possible and her experience there memorable.
She points to her mentors at Lakeland …
Frank Vitolo (former Wrestling and Boys Lacrosse Coach at Lakeland)
Tim Hourahan (current Physical Education teacher at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School and current Boys Soccer Coach at Lakeland High School)
Dennis Robinson (former Athletic Director at Lakeland High School)
Mike Robinson (Physical Education teacher and coach at Lakeland High School)
Coach Sarsen says she also “has been tremendously helped by…”
Dan Belfi (Athletic Director at Lakeland Central Schools)
Rebecca DiSisto-Leslie (Assistant Athletic Director at Lakeland Central Schools)
Danielle Fiore (Assistant Coach, Lakeland Field Hockey)
Shannon Scavelli (Assistant Coach, Lakeland Field Hockey)
Away from Lakeland, Sarsen has coached field hockey teams at the club level, and has been involved with the USA Field Hockey program.
“I have learned so much and developed a coaching style through these experiences,” she says.
Sarsen’s induction was scheduled for 2020, but was postponed a year because of the pandemic. But it was surely worth the wait, she exclaims.
“I greatly appreciate the support from the entire district [for this award].”
Alex Horowitz, of Briarcliff Manor, writes about sports for River Journal/River Journal North. He is a 2019 graduate of Muhlenberg College.