Nancy Jean Cole, a Long Island girls field hockey coach with the most wins in state history and an outspoken Title IX advocate, died March 17 at her Stony Brook home. She was 67.
Cole developed her passion for sports during her childhood in Northport, where she was raised by her parents, the late George and Margaret Cole, alongside siblings Larry Cole and Sally Cole Tucker.
Cole begged her older brother, Larry, to teach her to play baseball when she was a young girl, he recalled. In her early years, she suffered a foot injury, but her persistence, which she exuded throughout her life, paid off, he said.
Her father took her to a doctor in East Northport, Larry Cole recalled.
"They followed the instructions from the orthopedic surgeon to the letter," her brother said. "And, as a result, she became the most outstanding women's field hockey player on Long Island."
In high school, after trying numerous sports, including basketball, she found her true passion: field hockey.
She played at Northport High School before going on to receive a bachelor's in education with a concentration in physical education at Ithaca College and a master's in education from Stony Brook University, her brother said.
After 35 years of coaching, many at Centereach, then Ward Melville high schools -- where she also taught physical education -- Cole's record of 598 wins, including several league, county and Long Island championships, and six state championships, landed her in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001, and Newsday's Coach of the Year award in 2006.
"It was nice to have, but that wasn't her primary reason for doing what she was doing," her brother said of Cole's wins. "She really enjoyed coaching young women in field hockey and motivating them to achieve more than they thought was ever possible."
Cole will be remembered for a scholarship named in her honor, the Nancy Cole Scholarship in Sayville, along with the Suffolk County Field Hockey Coaches Association Nancy Cole Award.
"Her love of the sport, and her just pushing herself and her charges, led to her many achievements," Larry Cole said.
Her dedication to coaching helped groom four high school and 15 collegiate All-American players, at least one U.S. Olympian, Tracey Claire Fuchs, and produced numerous high school coaches, many of whom competed against her later in her career, her family said.
In addition to her brother and sister, survivors are sister-in-law Susan Cole, brother-in-law Greg Tucker, and nephew Ben. Services were private. Remembrances can be left on an online guest book at Nolan & Taylor-Howe Funeral Home's website at nthfh.com. The family asks that donations be made to Nancy's favorite charity, Smile Train.
"Nancy was well liked by all her high school and college classmates," Larry Cole said. "She still has friends that are just absolutely stunned by this. We're all going to miss her."