By Roger Wistar
Kaitlyn Perrelle Leonard '06 has been named the new head varsity field hockey coach, as Robin Chandler '87 steps aside after more than two decades of transcendent success in the program.
Chandler's results with the the team during her 21 years as head coach are almost unbelievable, but worth repeating nonetheless. Her teams won 12 New England championships, including ten straight from 2002-2011, as well as 17 Founders League titles, including another ten-year stretch at the top from 2006-2015. She finishes with 315 wins against only 25 losses.
But she readily points out that the most valuable part of the experience for her was not the end result, but the process. "The championships have been amazing, but the true joy over the past 21 years lies in the daily routines," she said.
Working with the girls has also been very special for Chandler. "Watching the friendships and the incredible bond that is formed each year through the passion and hard work of some amazing student athletes has been a true gift," she said.
Although leadership is changing hands, the program will remain in the Hotchkiss family, as another alumna, Kait Perrelle Leonard '06, has been promoted to head coach after two years as Chandler's assistant. Leonard was part of four New England and three Founders League titles as a player, and served as captain of the team her senior year. She was also the first Hotchkiss field hockey player to be named an All-American.
Leonard offered a heartfelt appreciation for Chandler's coaching career. "Robin has been a mentor to me even before I arrived on the Hotchkiss campus as a prep, and will continue to hold that position well into the future," she said. "She has inspired me, along with so many others, and I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from her as a player and also as a coach."
The praise was mutual. Said Chandler of her former captain: "She was one of the most tenacious and dedicated field hockey players I have ever hard the pleasure of working with. She also relished in the traditions of our team."
After graduating from Hotchkiss, Leonard continued her on-field success at Princeton, helping to lead the Tigers to four Ivy League championships and an NCAA Final Four. She also played on the USA Field Hockey Under-21 national team.
Following her playing career, Leonard moved onto the sidelines, with coaching stints at both Harvard and Lafayette before joining the Bearcats in 2016.
Leonard has brought lessons learned from these schools into the Hotchkiss program, and Chandler said she appreciated the infusion of new ideas.
"Working with her has been a wonderful educational experience," said Chandler. "Even late in my career, I had a unique opportunity to learn a great deal more about a sport I love."
For Leonard, the change represents a special opportunity. "Taking the program over from Robin is a dream come true for me," she said. "She always said that she would only trust the program to someone she knew would carry on the tradition, and I am both excited to be given that identification and looking forward to see it come to fruition."
Leonard added that she views the team as a family above all else. "It is this camaraderie, in my opinion, that makes Hotchkiss field hockey so special. While we are a program that is athletic and competitive, for me the most important aspect is that we help our players grow into amazing young women."