A coach’s farewell: team comes first

A coach’s farewell: team comes first


Editor’s note: This letter inadvertently appeared only in the print edition of The Sun. We are posting it for online readers as well.

On a memorable day of my coaching career, the Westerly girls basketball team won the Division 2 state championship. For me, however, the proudest day came one year later when the team fought to the bitter end of the Division 1 championship against La Salle. We lost, but I was so pleased with how much we had accomplished as a program. Westerly, the town in which I was born and raised, the town larger schools never took seriously, had competed on the same floor against a powerhouse program that draws talent from all over Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts. This was Division 1, and little Westerly was right there playing in the big game. The young women who were a part of those teams have memories that will last a lifetime.

A day like that can happen only one way: TEAM. When you are a team, the seemingly impossible becomes possible. When you are a part of a team, you have a chance to achieve something special you didn’t even know you could. For the good of the team, you learn to push yourself to your limits. From there, the sky is the limit — not just on the basketball court, but also in life; work, relationships, and community.

An effective team operates like a family. Even if a player isn’t the MVP, or in the starting five, people respect them because they have earned their place to wear the uniform and represent the school. The place on the team, not just the uniform, represents their town, their hard work, their dedication and commitment, and their spirit and sportsmanship.

I have had the privilege of representing Westerly High School as the head girls’ basketball coach for the past nine years. My assistants and I gave our heart and soul to the program year after year. Through countless hours of practice, scouting games, watching game film, running summer camps, to coaching summer league games, all of us gave time away from our families and careers because we loved to coach. Every year, I was fortunate to have absolutely amazing assistants by my side. The success of Westerly’s teams could not have been accomplished without my previous assistants and the most recent staff of Sue Haik, Tucker Terranova, and Lou Laudone. I respect them and their contributions enormously.

Recently, I stepped down from the position I loved. My assistant coaches chose to follow. My staff and I resigned freely and not as a result of any wrongdoing. I reached a point where I could no longer effectively coach my team in the context of significant interference from several parents who misunderstand the meaning of TEAM. And my assistants agreed.

Thank you to the people of the community who have supported me during the past difficult week. So many of you have reached out to me with kind words, which I appreciate deeply. I have been completely overwhelmed by the number of people who have contacted me. I did not realize just how many people followed girls’ basketball in this wonderful town. Emotion finally overcame me when I realized how many of my former players and their parents reached out to me to express their gratitude for having had the opportunity to be a part of the program. A coach’s fondest hope is that a group of kids come together as a team, care enough to work hard, and buy into the sportsmanship and life lessons you teach. Young adults who fully embrace the team concept are fun to coach because most often they are the players that improve the most.

Lastly, I am so proud of the team and how they responded to the difficult situation in which they were placed in for the quarterfinal game. They represented themselves well under the circumstances and demonstrated toughness, class and integrity.

Thank you, Westerly, for all of the tremendous support you have given to Westerly High girls’ basketball. And to all the young ladies I have had the pleasure of coaching over the past nine years, your hard work, dedication, and commitment to the team have helped mold the program into one of the most respected in the state.

Holly Misto


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