By Amy Martin
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Even though they are five and half years apart, there is no doubt that sisters Patricia (Trish) and Katherine (Kat) Sutton look alike. But they knew it had reached a new level when at a recent tailgate a parent approached who she thought was Trish, to explain how much their daughter had enjoyed having Trish as her new assistant coach. The parent was a little surprised when the response she received was, "Thank you so much! But I'm Kat."
When Kat heard the news that the position opened up, the first person she thought of to fill the vacancy was her sister Trish. "I automatically thought about my sister. I knew she was looking to get back in the Boston area, and I knew she always followed our teams and wanted us to do well. She was always coaching us from the sidelines when she was watching."
For Trish the feeling was similar. "I definitely didn't think it was going to be this soon, but it was always in the back of my mind that I would love to be with the program again. I missed the team and was a fan from a far, so to become involved again was a great opportunity."
The elder Sutton's playing career is legendary in the Holy Cross women's lacrosse program. After being named Rookie of the Year in 2004, Sutton followed up the next three years of her career with first team All-Patriot League selections in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year in 2006, Patriot League Tournament MVP in 2007, All-Northeast Region in 2006 and 2007, scoring and draw control records, and two Patriot League championships in 2006 and 2007. Trish followed up her college lacrosse career by taking an assistant coaching position at Albany for two years, during which the Great Danes recorded two of their most successful seasons in program history.
As a high school player, Kat always admired her sister's playing and was especially inspired by their play during the Patriot League Tournament games. "I remember the PL championship game versus American (2007). I missed my first game on high school varsity because I knew this was the last chance I would get to see her play college lacrosse. I was so excited seeing them win and wanted that same feeling of winning a championship."
For Kat, the chance to win her own Patriot League championship became a possibility when she committed to play at Holy Cross. "It's funny because Kat said she would, 'Never go to HC,' because I went there. But when it came down to it, our family thought it was so ironic that she did end up at Holy Cross," Trish recounted, "It was like when she looked at other schools nothing else compared." Kat agreed, "I never planned on going here, but after taking other official visits to other schools Holy Cross felt like the best fit, and the girls were so welcoming. I liked the close to home feel of the HC community."
In her four years away from the program watching from the other side of the field had been difficult for Trish, "It was hard to watch after I graduated just because I missed it so much. That first year after college I was still very good friends with people on the team and I came to a lot of games. It was just hard not being a member of the team and not being able to contribute. I was lucky enough never to be on the sidelines with an injury so I never knew what it was like to not be able to contribute."
So when Holy Cross women's lacrosse had a vacancy to fill there was really only one person who was fit for the job. "I think everyone was nervous when we found out there was going to be a coaching change," Kat stated. "But when everyone got the e-mail saying we were going to have my sister as a coach it felt like we gained a 29th player who is telling us exactly how to win a Patriot League championship. She helped bring Albany to an America East regular season championship and has the set of tools as a player and coach to win. She brings that intensity and winning mind set to the team and wants to win the PLC."
This decision however didn't come without much family discussion. "Before I took the job, I told Kat this was her college experience and her college lacrosse experience. I would have never taken the job if I didn't think Katherine was okay with it," said Trish. "I've loved watching Kat develop as a player over the years. She's made huge leaps and bounds and has a great natural ability as a lacrosse player. She's extremely athletic and definitely one who is coachable. I've seen her go through all the stages of being a player and she has a lot more room to grow and develop as well," she continued.
For the two there are definitely pros and cons about having your sister as your coach and your player. But both are quick to state that they have learned much from the highs and lows. Having her sister as her coach allows Kat, "To realize that our coaches are people just like us. They want the best for us. By being hard on us they are pushing us to be our best and to make us better players so we can win a Patriot League championship. But at the end of the day anyone can go to her with personal things."
For Trish a similar experience has occurred. "I've learned a lot from coaching my sister because it makes me think of every player I coach as a little sister. It helps me better relate to players as people and not just as players. I know they all have outside lives, and academic rigors that are placed on them as students and they also have social lives. I talk to my sister a lot and I'm close to my sister so it helps me look to all my players as my younger sister."
The two agreed that the new aspect of their relationship is not without challenges. "It's tough sometimes, I'm sure that sometimes Kat doesn't want her older sister nagging on her. But we do a good job of keeping our relationship off the field separate. We never want to cross the outside family and lacrosse world. If we disagree on a family matter that's not something we want to bring on the field," Trish said. Kat agreed. "It's hard when you have a tough academic day and someone who you have a close relationship with is nagging on you, but I try and look at her as my coach and not my sister on those days."
"I think I'm tougher on Kat but I know her abilities and I know what she can do, and if I don't see her reaching that I'm going to be on it," Trish said, but was quick to add "I would say one pro of being sisters is that I do know the times when I can really get on her and I really can't. I do know how far and what buttons I can push at times and when it's time I can't and I need to back away."
Undoubtedly Holy Cross lacrosse is a huge part of the whole Sutton family's world. "The amount of purple in our family's wardrobe is obscene," Trish joked. "Our parents are far and away our most loyal fans. In the course of my four years, and Katherine's three years so far, I can count on one hand the games my parents have missed," she continued. "Our extended family comes to at least a few games too," Kat added.
While they have already accomplished much individually, there is a goal that they are both hungry to accomplish: win a Patriot League title together. "It would mean everything to me. I mean that's what you work for and to say that I got to do it with 28 of my best friends would be amazing," Kat said. Trish couldn't agree more, "I had the experience of winning two PL titles, but the experience of winning with my sister would top them all."