For Eileen O’Reilly, coaching is much more than a job or the “x’s and o’s” — it’s far beyond field hockey and Montclair State. Her passion for coaching stemmed from the early seeds her own college coach planted in her life. Now, it has become her passion to plant those seeds in the lives of her own players.
“From playing in college, I had a really good college coach, and she was definitely an inspiration for me, not just on the field hockey side, but sort of mentoring in life and development after college,” O’Reilly said. “I was grateful that she was able to teach me a lot about character, resilience and the benefits of really hard work and setting goals.”
O’Reilly was the top assistant coach at Manhattanville College before arriving at Montclair State in 2013 to take up an assistant coaching position. She was named the Montclair State field hockey head coach in June 2015. In her first full season as head coach, she led the Red Hawks to a 15-5 record and was able to reach the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament Semifinals. O’Reilly was very active on and off the field, including practice planning, video editing, recruiting and fundraising.
In 2014, O’Reilly put into affect the Red Hawks’ “Leave a Legacy” campaign, which raised over $10,000. Through this campaign, the team conducted a fundraiser with their alumni, family and friends to refurbish the team locker room.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is the amount of training that we do in the offseason, so it’s nice to have a space that they can keep their stuff in year round,” O’Reilly said.
The fundraiser also gave alumni an opportunity to reconnect back to the program. Alumni were asked to sponsor a locker, in which they would put their name and jersey number. Now, each member of the current team sees a name of a former player in their locker.
“The alumni are a big part of our team culture and it’s nice to honor them in our locker room,” O’Reilly said.
As she enters her second year as head coach, her passion has translated to her players, and they have demonstrated that on the field so far in the season. The Red Hawks are 6-0 and are ranked 10th in the country. Not to mention, they have beaten every opponent by three or more goals in every game but one so far this season.
“I enjoy sharing my knowledge, but something about my current group right now that really amazes me and makes me happy and proud to work with them is how much they contribute on their own,” O’Reilly said. “I do a lot of leading and directing in practice, but the way they interpret what I’m teaching them and how I’m directing them and how they take it to the next step themselves is a big part of our success this season.”
After falling short of winning a NJAC Championship last season, the team is set to get to the promised land. With a team comprised of mainly underclassmen, yet still several juniors and seniors, O’Reilly believes they gel well together. The mixture of experience and youth has worked well. They make the right plays and play as a team.
“As always, our goal is to win the [NJAC] Championship and move on to the NCAA Tournament,” O’Reilly said. “Our goal is to win that automatic bid, by winning our conference championship. It is a goal to win a national championship. That’s something that we talk about every year, and it’s part of our motivation day- in and day-out in practice.”
As always, a seed has to grow and live out its life and so does a passion. The students can’t play field hockey for Montclair State forever. O’Reilly tries to make their time as Red Hawk athletes worthwhile — something they can look back at later on in life and be proud and grateful.
“I’d like to be remembered as a coach that was passionate about the success of the student athletes on the field, but also whatever they want to pursue beyond their time here,” said O’Reilly. “I think that’s what coaching is really about.”