SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Longtime South Plainfield Field Hockey Coach Fran Flannery received the highest honor given out by South Plainfield's Recreation Commission when she was presented this year's "Cappy Award" Saturday night.
The award remembers Tulio "Cappy" Capparelli for years of service to South Plainfield's youth-sports programs, and it is handed out annually to someone who exemplifies his spirit and dedication to the borough's young athletes.
A former player, Chrissy Buteas, nominated Flannery and explained how her former coach not only helped her on the field, but also influenced her life. Other former players echoed this theme, saying that Flannery was not just a coach, but a mentor--someone to look up to.
But those who went to the dinner thinking Flannery was being honored solely for her years coaching high-school field hockey were wrong. Recreation Director Kevin Hughes explained how she volunteered in many ways to help South Plainfield's recreation programs, often acting as a "bridge" between the education and coaching worlds and often building bonds between young girls and her high-school athletes through “feeder” programs where the younger girls learned the basics of the sport.
Others pointed out how Flannery worked to give girls and young women opportunities in sports they never had before.
Looking back, Flannery recalled her own days growing up in South Plainfield, saying how there were limited opportunities for women in sports back then. "I was out of high school when Title IX (the law requiring parity between men's and women's sports programs) was enacted," she explained.
"I was motivated by Title IX," said Flannery when explaining how things have changed for women's sports in South Plainfield. "The opportunities now are amazing."
The growth in opportunities led Flannery to give an oft-repeated piece of advice to her family, friends, and especially her players: "If there's an opportunity, you take it."
Over the years, Flannery has coached several sports, including softball, cheerleading, and field hockey. She says her parents inspired her to actively volunteer. "My mother and father were my role models," she said when explaining her motivation.
After accepting her award, the longtime SPHS teacher reflected on her time as a member of the Recreation Commission, saying that two achievements stick out. The first was hiring former Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar. "He professionalized the Recreation Department," she said. Flannery also thinks the Commission's decision to take over the then-failing community pool was also a good one.
Flannery joins thirteen other recipients who have received the Cappy Award since its inception in 2003.