Diane Chapman, a fixture on the Garden City sideline for the past 29 years, who has won more state titles than any female coach in history, announced she is retiring in June.
Chapman, nicknamed Chappy, led Garden City to prominence in both field hockey and girls lacrosse. She guided the lacrosse program to 10 state Class B championships in 18 years and field hockey to seven state titles - six in Class B and one in Class A over 29 years.
She was named Newsday’s Coach of the Decade between 2010-2019.
“I’ve been thinking about retiring and my district offered an incentive that helped me make the decision,” said Chapman from her home in Babylon. “I made a promise to myself that when I retired from teaching, I’d also retire from coaching. I’ve been blessed to have chosen a profession with teaching and coaching sports that I have a passion for. I’ve had incredible assistant coaches and we’ve experienced so many incredible moments. They were all different and yet unique. Every success was a fantastic experience with all the different players.”
Chapman totaled 787 wins in the two sports, including a career record of 473-41-23 in field hockey and a mark of 314-43-1 in lacrosse.
Long Island’s two-sport coaching legend leaves her job as a physical education teacher at the East Broadway Elementary School in Levittown after 30 years,
Her only regret was the way in which her sterling coaching career ended.
“It was not the way I envisioned it ending,” Chapman said. “We had six practices this spring and it ended in a bizarre kind of way. I am grateful to have those practices. The pandemic really had nothing to do with my decision to retire. But it’s very sad that I didn’t get to coach my last season with lacrosse. It really did make me think more about coming back. But I wanted to be true to myself and retire from teaching and coaching at the same time. I wasn’t able to personally tell the girls. I would have preferred a face to face meeting with them.”
Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII, which governs Nassau County’s high school athletics, said we are witnessing the exit of one of the greatest high school coaches to ever grace our fields.
“Diane Chapman was the ultimate coach in our county,” Pizzarelli said. ‘She was a role model for all coaches, especially girls’ sports. Look at what she’s accomplished since girls’ sports took off in 1975. Look at what she’s done at Garden City in two sports over a long period of time. I know programs aspire to ‘be like Chappy’ because her teams were always successful and set the bar for sportsmanship. Everything about her program was top notch.”
Chapman, a 15-time Newsday All-Long Island coach of the year, was inducted into the inaugural class of the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. She is also a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame and earned the National High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award twice.
“She defined the entire athletic experience for her student-athletes and paid attention to all the details,” said Dawn Cerrone, director of athletics at Garden City. “Her teams were pristine in every aspect of the high school experience. They were winners on and off the field. She had outstanding young ladies who were role models in our community. I would always advocate for the positive athletic experience and she’d provide them with that experience, focusing on so many life lessons.”
Chapman surrounded herself with Garden City alum as assistant coaches. Kerin Boghasian Harrington, who played at Towson, and Gina Sambus Leake, who played at Virginia, were lacrosse assistants. Janet Walsh Rogler, who played for Hofstra, was a field hockey assistant.
“She was all about precision and the details,” Cerrone said. “She brought student-athletes together to believe in a team vision and did it in two sports. She found their strengths and weaknesses and made it work in a unique way. She was deliberate in regard to staffing and with people with specific skill sets. She embraced the collaboration with her coaching staff, mirroring what she wanted from her athletes to bring out the best in them.”
Chapman always found the keys to success.
So, what does someone who has devoted her life to student-athletes do in retirement?
“There’s no plans at the moment,” she laughed. “I love to read and relax. I’d like to travel at some point. I’ll enjoy family and spend time with them. And I’m always going to be a Garden City fan and believe in the maroon and gray.”