By Paul Silverfarb
While a lot is changing for Tara Clough, a lot is also quite familiar.
Clough stepped down as head girls’ lacrosse coach of Sacred Heart Greenwich and will patrol the sidelines across town at Greenwich High School, as she was named the new head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team.
“To be honest I am thrilled,” Clough said. “It’s a huge opportunity for me. I had a great experience coaching at Sacred Heart. I am looking forward to going to a program at Greenwich High that has a lot of depth, in terms of athleticism. I’m looking forward to coaching in the FCIAC and playing high level competition like Darien and New Canaan.”
Clough will be replacing Rachel Vallarelli, who resigned at the end of last season as the head coach of the Cardinals.
Clough, who grew up in New Canaan and played both field hockey and lacrosse for New Canaan High School, was the head coach of Sacred Heart Greenwich for the previous five seasons. During her tenure with the Tigers, Clough took the school to some amazing highs. Sacred Heart was the Fairchester Athletic Association champions for the previous three seasons. In addition, Clough led the Tigers to a 18-1 record last year and also helped the team upend perennial powers and crosstown rival, Greenwich Academy.
When she took over the program, Sacred Heart only had one Division-I college recruit. Now the Tigers have a plethora of talent ready to play lacrosse at the Division-I level. Overall Clough finished her career at Sacred Heart Greenwich with a 72-19 record.
“We had some talented athletes throughout the years, and I think every year we improved our performance,” Clough said. “It was a great group of athletes and we had some very strong leadership. To work with these great student-athletes was great. Last year, we beat Greenwich Academy and captured the FAA championship. It was a great ride for me at Sacred Heart and I felt like I built that program to a high level.”
“The biggest thing for me was that when I left there, I felt that every player in the program has grown in the game and has really built on their passion,” added Clough. “Most every player was looking to play at the next level, whether that’s Division-I, Division-III or club lacrosse at the college they are going to.”
In leaving Sacred Heart Greenwich, Clough was able to realize a goal that nearly every coach has when taking on the challenge of leading a program. With countless dominating seasons, a conference championship and several athletes playing collegiate lacrosse at some of the most premier schools around, Clough can say that she definitely left the program at Sacred Heart better than it was when she first stepped foot on campus.
“It’s great to see the improvement over the years and the passion built over the years,” Clough said. “The success that we have at Sacred Heart is something that they have had in the past.”
While Clough will go from battling in the private school FAA and will now compete in the public school FCIAC, she believes that her philosophy will remain consistent.
“I’m looking to build a winning culture by keeping winning in perspective. My goals are going to be similar to when I joined Sacred Heart,” Clough said. “I think there’s a huge opportunity in Greenwich. They need consistency in terms of leadership and I am really looking forward to working more closely with the youth lacrosse community in Greenwich. I think there is a lot of energy and excitement there. It would be great to have some of these strong athletes playing for their high school.”
With it comes to the game of lacrosse, Clough puts a huge emphasis on playing with heart and hustle.
“My goals for these players is for them to have a burning desire to be out there and competing,” Clough said. “There’s so much that goes into that, but I think things that I have learned over the years is that communication and leadership wins close, competitive games. We need to build strong leadership in the program and we need to improve on our teamwork. I have always said that I want my players to do what they can to make their teammates better.”
A key advantage for Clough as she gears up for the upcoming spring lacrosse season is that she is very familiar with the Greenwich and FCIAC communities. In addition to coaching in at Sacred Heart Greenwich and knowing the high-quality athletes that the Town of Greenwich produces, Clough grew up in New Canaan and competed in the FCIAC when she was a member of the Rams’ lacrosse and field hockey teams.
“I am very familiar with the Greenwich community and have a lot of experience coaching public school players through the Connecticut Grizzlies,” Clough said. “I think I have developed a lot of relationships within the Greenwich community over the years. I also spent some time helping Greenwich Youth Lacrosse when they were building their curriculum and have been there at evaluations for tryouts. I also understand the demand of these student-athletes in Greenwich.”
While it’s obvious that Clough would love nothing more than to come into Greenwich High School and help the girls’ lacrosse program capture the FCIAC and CIAC Division I championships, she also is realistic and knows that building a winning program takes time.
“My goal is that I want to have maximum participation in the program,” Clough said. “I am hoping we have a lot of players coming out for tryouts this spring. I am going to prepare these players to be able to compete with the highest levels of lacrosse in the FCIAC and be successful. It’s all about emphasizing strong fundamentals and high levels of lacrosse strategy. These players will step up to any challenge, so I am looking forward to challenging them and helping them grow.”
Although the calendar says that we are just about done with September, Clough can’t wait for spring to be in the air.
“I am very excited and can’t wait,” Clough said. “I love a challenge and I am looking forward to this next chapter. I want to be with the Greenwich program for the long term and want to be competing for FCIAC titles in a few years.”