LEADER OF THE PACK JAN HUTCHINSON IS THE FIRST WOMAN COACH IN NCAA HISTORY TO WIN 1,000 GAMES

September 07, 1997

The veteran coach, despite the missed signs and irrational
substitutions that dot any successful mentor's career, is no
stupe. So as 250 or so adolescents roam through Columbia Hall at
Bloomsburg (Pa.) University this late August evening--talk of
boys, The Wallflowers and Party of Five filling the air--Jan
Hutchinson is nowhere to be seen. Fact is, she's asleep, three
miles away in her own bedroom in her own house. It's one of the
advantages of age: wisdom. Eight or nine years ago Hutchinson,
Bloomsburg's field hockey and softball coach, finally learned
that running a successful field hockey camp doesn't necessarily
mean being a 24-7 den mother. "Once I got a good assistant who
could handle the late nights, I became smart," she says. "That's
what experience does for a person. You learn."

Indeed, Jan Hutchinson has learned. And learned. On April 20,
with the Bloomsburg softball team's 6-0 victory over Dowling
College, she became the first woman coach in NCAA history to
earn 1,000 victories. She is the Division II alltime winningest
softball coach (677-141), and with a 329-49-20 record in field
hockey, she is only three victories away from becoming the
winningest coach in that sport, too. (The Huskies were scheduled
to open their field hockey season on Sept. 3 against Lebanon
Valley College.)

"No one's going to outcoach her," says Megan Hunsinger, a
Bloomsburg junior who earned first-team All-America softball
honors as a catcher last season. "I'm not sure how she does it,
but she always knows what the other team's doing--and how to
react."

Hutchinson, 48, arrived in Bloomsburg 19 years ago after
spending seven years at Blair Academy, a prep school in
Blairstown, N.J., where she started a girls' sports program and
coached basketball, track, softball and field hockey. "They
needed someone [at Bloomsburg] to coach field hockey and
softball," she says. "I was someone. Never, ever, would I have
thought about staying here and winning 1,000 games. I had the
same plan all coaches have: Get some experience, win some games
and move up to a Division I program."

She took over a softball program in its second season and, five
years later, in 1982, had an AIAW championship. (The Bloomsburg
program moved to the NCAA's Division II in 1983.) The
four-year-old field hockey program Hutchinson inherited was
mediocre, but--presto chango--in the fall of 1981 it won her
first national title. Thus during the 1981-82 academic year
Hutchinson earned two national crowns in different sports, still
"my greatest achievement, by far," she says. She has won another
five championships in field hockey.

It was, as she admitted, part of a grand scheme: Division I
schools would start to call. They would offer big contracts and
recruiting bonuses and--for god's sake--life somewhere other
than tiny Bloomsburg, Pa. Dear Jan: We at Michigan State [at
Washington ... at Rider] would be interested in talking to you
about a coaching opening.... But a funny thing happened. "I was
really going to leave--really," Hutchinson says, half
convincingly. "Then I'd have a great recruit coming in or a
strong field hockey team returning. It got to the point where I
wasn't even going on interviews anymore."

So here she is in 1997, still at Bloomsburg, an obscure state
school with about 7,300 students and all the name recognition of
John Smith from New York City. Early this year her 23-year
marriage to Tom Hutchinson, a former wrestling coach at Lehigh
University in Bethlehem, Pa., came to an end. At first she had
been the one talking family, he job. But as the years went by,
that changed. Her wins mounted. He wanted kids. "Lately I've
been thinking about my life and some of the decisions I've
made--about where I am, where I could be," says Hutchinson, who
lives in Bloomsburg with her 78-year-old father, George Mitten.
"Right now, coaching is what I'm about."

For Hutchinson, having walked away from opportunities with
Division I programs seems to mean that she is at home at
Bloomsburg. Her two teams operate on a combined budget of
$30,000. There are no special perks, no all-expenses-paid
recruiting trips. To help fund scholarships, she runs summer
camps at the school in softball and field hockey. Every February
she holds a pitching clinic that helps fund the Huskies' annual
softball trip to Florida in March. In late March, Hutchinson's
two squads also hold a sneaker sale in the student union, which
helps pay expenses on overnight trips that both teams take
during the year. The players arrive for the sale at 7:30 a.m.
Hutchinson is there at 6:45.

"She is the program," says Michelle Martin, a recent Bloomsburg
grad from New Holland, Pa., and a two-time field hockey
All-America. "When I was recruited, I couldn't have known what
goes into running a team. With Coach, you appreciate everything,
because you see her at practice and in the office, trying to
recruit and watch tapes and help people out. I don't know how
she does it."

When she was a high school freshman, Hutchinson fell from a
five-meter diving platform and broke her left femur. The injury,
plus an infection in the bone, put her in traction for four
months and a body cast for another three. At the time she was
one of the best athletes in Newton, N.J., a star in field
hockey, basketball and track. Then doctors concluded she would
never compete again. "When they said that," she recalls, "I knew
I'd come back. [When] people say you can't, you do." She did,
playing field hockey as a freshman at East Stroudsburg (Pa.)
State. By the time she graduated, with an education degree, in
1971, she had stopped playing but started toying with the idea
of coaching.

During every Bloomsburg softball game Hutchinson charts the
opposing team's batters, keeping track of strike-zone
tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. During field hockey games
she monitors the opposing goaltender, looking for vulnerable
points to exploit. "It's really amazing," says Christie Kittle,
a junior pitcher. "I think she has a calculator in her head.
She's not wrong very often."

In 19 years, players and coaches swear, Hutchinson has never
yelled. "Looking back, that amazes me," says Kathy Frick, the
field hockey coach at Baltimore's Goucher College and a former
Bloomsburg star. "Somehow she was able to get a message across
without raising her voice. Think about how astonishing that is."

Hutchinson doesn't dispute the point, but she says there was an
exception, earlier in her career. It was one of her first years
at Blair, during a closed basketball practice. There was a
broken clock sitting on a table. "I wanted to make a point," she
says, "so I smashed the clock against the ground, and it went to
pieces. I shocked the whole team, I think. It was a crazy thing
for me to do."

Hutchinson says she learned a lesson from the incident.
"Sometimes," says the woman with more than 1,000 wins, "I'm
wrong."

COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN Hutchinson (center) has led her Bloomsburg field hockey teams to six national titles in 19 years. [Jan Hutchinson and field hockey players] COLOR PHOTO: JOE DIMAGGIO Hutchinson would rather keep her softball charts at Bloomsburg than at a big Division I school. [Jan Hutchinson and softball players]
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