When asked to describe her field hockey coach, Belmont High School senior co-captain Suzanne Noone said that Jessica Smith “is one of the most important adults I’ve had in my life.”
“She taught me so much, yelling at me to keep my stick down,” laughed Noone, who was recently named a Middlesex League All-Star and will likely play college field hockey next fall.
“Jess is a big reason I’ve been successful on and off the field.”
Smith, at the helm of the successful field hockey program for the past 11 season, has earned almost universal praise from players and parents as a mentor and supporter to the students who take up the crooked stick as their athletic pursuit. Many times with her three, small children in tow, Smith is on the sidelines at games or practice yelling encouragement to her charges.
So it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that Smith learned about leading a team when she was an accomplished young high school athlete two decades ago.
That past athletic prowess was recognized Saturday, Nov. 8 as Smith and 15 others were inducted as the first-ever class into the Joel Barlow High School Athletic Hall of Fame in Redding, Connecticut. (Smith was not the only Massachusetts field hockey coach honored as she entered with Salem High School’s Wizzie Crocker Phelps.)
“She was an incredible teammate, a remarkable athlete, as well as an outstanding academic student,” read the announcement of the honor.
A member of the class of 1994 (and then known as Jess MacLellan), Smith played field hockey for the Falcons throughout high school, was a captain her senior year and was named the team’s MVP as a junior and senior. She was on the All-Western Connecticut Conference (WCC) team from 1992 – 1994, and was 1st team All- State in 1993 and 1994. She led the Falcons to the WCC tournament championships in 1993.
Smith was also a standout in tennis. During her four years at Barlow, the Falcons won the Class S State tournament in which she played first singles her final three years. She was a team captain and competed in the quarterfinals of the state individual tournament as a senior.
At Tufts University in Medford, Smith continued to play field hockey and pursued lacrosse where she became a captain of both sports and MVP during her senior year. In field hockey, she was All-American, First-Team All-New England, and All-NESCAC. In lacrosse, she was All-New England and All-NESCAC. In 1998, she won the Hester L. Sargent Award as Tufts’ outstanding female athlete.
Always the athlete, Smith has ran the New York City marathon in 3 hours, 20 minutes and the BAA marathon in 3:25.
Smith was hired as an occupational therapist by the Belmont School District in 2002 and currently covers the Winn Brook, Butler, High School and Wellington pre-school. She lives in Charlestown with her husband and their three rambunctious children.
At the induction ceremony, Smith said she often thinks of Karissa Niehoff, her field hockey coach, who made practice fun and instilled the values of hard work and fitness.