Rachel Hickey knows how to go about building a successful lacrosse program.
After a standout playing career at Shawnee High School and Rutgers University, Hickey joined the coaching ranks as an assistant at King’s College in Pennsylvania and then Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The two programs are at different levels, but the stride towards success was evident at both stops.
After two stops as a college assistant coach, Hickey is now set for her first head coaching job as she takes over the top spot for the Hun School girls' lacrosse program.
“I coached in college at King’s for two years, which was a lower level Division 3 program,” said Hickey, who takes over for Liz Cook as the Raiders’ head coach. “I wanted to give back and help grow the game. It was fun to be at a program that wasn’t as much of a hotbed in terms of lacrosse. It was fun.
“I played at Shawnee, which is well known for lacrosse and then I played at the Division 1 level. So it was neat to be doing something different and coaching girls who had never played before. We were literally pulling girls off campus to make sure we had enough players. My first season we played man-down the whole season. It was a neat experience.”
Hickey moved from King's to Wesleyan and helped to build that program into one of the best in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
“After two years at King's, I was looking for something different and I got the job at Wesleyan, which is in the NESCAC and is the best D3 conference in the country,” Hickey said. “I worked with Kim Williams and the team is amazing. It was a very different experience there.
“It was great because at the time they needed a lot of guidance and change in culture. Working under Kim was incredible. Working with her on that team showed me what this team needs. They needed a mindset change and were capable, but had to work hard. They had never made the NCAA tournament and in our second year we made it to the NCAA tournament and they made it again last year. I learned a lot from the two women I coached with. They were very diff people but were both successful.”
Hickey took last year off from college coaching while living in Hawaii while her husband was stationed there in the Navy. She spent the time coaching youth lacrosse. This year she is at Hun as the Associate Director of Admissions and the new lacrosse coach. The Raiders will open the season on March 27 at home against South Brunswick.
"Since our first practice, I have seen an immense amount of growth in this team,” said Hickey, whose team recently returned from spending a week training in Florida. “We are focusing a lot on our mindset, learning how to push ourselves and how to support one another. I am excited to give guidance and watch us overcome obstacles physically and mentally throughout the season.
“It is important for our staff to teach the team through every practice and game and if we can continue to be confident in our strengths and learn from our weaknesses I feel we will be successful in a multitude of ways.”
As far as a coaching philosophy, for Hickey it begins and ends with effort.
“For me, my focus and my two main goals are always that you give 100 percent effort and 100 percent in attitude and bring a positive attitude every day,” she said. “I feel if we can control those two things nothing else matters. We need to learn from the games whether we win or lose. That helps you get better and fuels you to learn and get better. Those are two things I ask of them every day. I think this team has a lot of potential.
“I have some talented players, which is exciting. As a whole I really want to instill confidence in these girls and know their strengths and weaknesses and how can we get better? It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and get better.”