Falmouth has many sports legends. From former pro athletes like Nick Fotiu, the only New York native to play for the New York Rangers, to bejeweled Olympian Colleen Coyne, who skated with her teammates to Olympic gold in 1998, to locals like Rick Corey and Doug Doolittle, whose gridiron mastery and undefeated season in 1975 are still the stuff of town legend, our local history is loaded with stories of athletic success.
Not all of our local sports legends, however, made their mark—and their memories—on the field. Some shaped teams and shaped young lives as coaches. Names like Billy Andrade, Fred Toran, Jim Kalperis always evoke smiles and Clipper pride and are always in the discussion when the question of the “greatest” occurs at the coffee shops and kitchen tables in our community.
No discussion, however, of the greatest coach in Falmouth history would be complete without adding Janey Norton to the list. Janey recently retired after more than two decades as the veteran coach of the perennially successful Falmouth High School field hockey team. She leaves behind a long list of successes—on and off the field—and an even longer list of friends and fans, all grateful for her leadership, her compassion, and, most importantly, her commitment to student success.
Janey was feted at the Coonamessett Inn on a recent Sunday, as former players, parents, and coaching colleagues made up a steady stream of admirers to pay tribute to this living local legend. As Donna and I enjoyed a stroll down memory lane with old friends John and Sue Kelleher, whose daughter Kait enjoys the distinction of having played on Janey’s last team, we watched a parade of Falmouthites share hugs, memories, adoration, and approbation with Janey and her family.
Janey’s sister Maura Sullivan, acting as emcee and ambassador of admiration for the event, provided an overview of Janey’s accolades and accomplishments on the field and in her work as a teacher. Falmouth field hockey has become synonymous with success under Janey’s leadership and tutelage; during her tenure, the team racked up nine Old Colony League championships, four Atlantic Coast League championships, and 21 post-season tournament appearances, including a South Sectional championship in 2003. During that same time, Janey fostered a love of field hockey in the youth of Falmouth, creating and directing a summer camp for elementary school age athletes and providing opportunities for high school age athletes to teach and coach themselves, providing probably her most important legacy—coaches and teachers of tomorrow.
This amazing success was no surprise to those who know Janey best—her family. Driven to competition by her older brothers who, in Maura’s words, were “bigger, stronger, and merciless in competition, whether it was on the field or diving for the clicker to the TV,” she became the first female athlete in Bourne High School history to earn 12 varsity letters. That love of competition led her to Salem State College, where she played field hockey, then to teaching and coaching, then to Falmouth, where her first season in 1994 began the legend.
Despite that coaching success, Janey is devoted to her family. The word “hug” does not do justice to the passionate embrace provided to Janey by her twin sister, Judy, at her Falmouth festivity, symbolizing the esteem of an entire family. The undying love and support of her wife, Leslie, and children, particularly Taylor (Fuzzy) Sullivan, who was able to play on Falmouth’s varsity team, provided her with the foundation to be part of Falmouth’s folklore. Fuzzy was part of the terrific trio of best friends, including Julia Dalton and Jenna Clarkson, who in 2013 made up the core of one of Janey’s most memorable teams.
Janey’s transition from coaching was spurred by her new role as principal of the Peebles Elementary School in Bourne. The Peebles students’ gain is Falmouth field hockey’s loss, but Janey will remain an engaged and engaging presence in town and will, as her sister also noted, “find a way to still play with the game that she loves so much and the people that mean so much to her.”
Well, Janey, we love you right back. Congratulations—and thank you—to one of Falmouth’s living legends.