By: Evan Wechman
Physical Education teacher and now Head Coach, Kailee Beal loves sports and competition. She has been working for the West Orange School District since 2015, when the idea of a Woman’s Varsity Lacrosse team was just starting to grow. This was despite other area schools having promising programs already in place.
However, on March 27, the team lost its first ever game to Caldwell by a score of 12-1. Though a loss by such a large margin may have set back other newly formed squads, Coach Beale said, “the next day they (team) all bounced back and were smiling again.” As the West Orange Mountaineers embark on their new season, the coach is confident that they will learn the same valuable life lessons she herself learned from playing competitive sports as a student-athlete.
“School is the number one priority,” says Beale, but insists that the girls will also become adept at time management and sportsmanship. “We are lucky to have such a great group of hard working and motivated girls who are excited to keep learning and improving every day.”
This progress starts from the top as the teacher, coach and former collegiate lacrosse star at Montclair State University is leading the school’s effort to bring a competitive program to a growing sport. She does credit much of the team’s formation to the students and their parents who wanted this day to come. The coach remarks that many of the students have played other sports which helps when building a foundation for learning the new game.
However, without Beale’s leadership, along with strong parental support, it is unlikely that the girls program would have started so smoothly. “I was so shocked when I started working in the district that they didn’t have a girl’s lacrosse team,” she states. She wanted the kids to experience the same joy she had when she played the game. “I grew up playing the game and wanted to share my knowledge and passion with my students.”
She then contacted the West Orange Recreation Department as well as some “motivated lacrosse parents,” to begin implementing some instructional clinics four years ago. The momentum grew and more girls were coming out to the practices. As a result, this past June, the program was finally approved to be a high school sport by the board of education and a sense of excitement was in the air.
Beale appears to be the right person for the job as she not only shined as a lacrosse player at Montclair State University but was previously head coach for the Kinnelon High School Girl’s Lacrosse team. Beale thinks this prior experience will bode well for her current student-athletes as she learned a lot of methods to develop high school lacrosse players during her tenure there. She also believes that though West Orange is a new program, she has successfully “modified all the drills and skills I have learned to meet the needs of my players.”
Since this is a new team, winning many games may not come easy. Beale who has experience playing and coaching field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse at different high schools in Morris County, is mindful of team morale. She has acknowledged this with her students and is “consistently reminding them that they are a new program and all neighboring schools have established programs in girls lacrosse.” She shares her mission that “the main focus of the season is improvement and learning something new from each game.” According to Beal, “the team chemistry and the positive outlook on the program gives me hope that the team morale will be positive throughout the season.”
Though the number of victories the team will have this season is hard to predict, the formula for a successful program seems to already be in place. The zest of forming a team, along with the recreational clinics that now exist will, according to Beale, “help down the road with the success of the program.” The coach also feels she has found her calling as she has always wanted to coach since she stopped playing after the collegiate level. “Sports were always a huge part of my life. When I stopped playing, I knew I would give back to the sport that taught me many life lessons.”