The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2013

Scott Dudinskie's field hockey column: Southern Columbia honors a worthy coach


Daily Item

---- — Much like that well-known tale of Michael Jordan being left off his varsity basketball team as a high school sophomore, we, too, have an inconceivable-but-true Valley legend.

It's about the time there were rumblings of football being dropped from Southern Columbia's athletics program.

It was years ago, of course. Decades now. But there absolutely was a time when the Tigers were poor enough to spark discussion of putting them out of their misery.

Southern Columbia welcomed the 1980s with a losing streak that grew to 26 games before ending in Sept. 1981. So heavy was the weight of that albatross, that once it was gone the district celebrated en masse with a day off school.

Southern football was not only weak in and of itself, but it was forced to toil in the shadow of the school's field hockey team which, led by coach Freda Dalious, carried the banner for the school's sports.

Dalious, who arrived in the district after several years at Greenwood, built the Southern girls athletics program. From field hockey to basketball to softball, she spent 30 seasons (29 in the case of basketball) coaching each in addition to working as a health and phys ed teacher.

Her teams combined for 729 wins, 308 losses and 34 ties. She had an equal number of wins (303) in field hockey and basketball, but her hockey teams won 12 league championships and four District 4 championships to trump her basketball squads (nine league, three district). And in 1977, while the football team was mired in futility, the Tigers field hockey team played for the state championship, losing to Cedar Crest 3-0 in the final.

Southern field hockey was the school's first athletics juggernaut.

"Whenever you have someone willing to give 30 years to one program that program is going to see success," said current Tigers hockey coach Tricia Hoffman, a 12-year vet. "She is, was, and will continue to be what SCA field hockey is."

Dalious died in March at the age of 74.

In my 20 years covering Southern Columbia sports, I came to recognize her as a fixture at virtually every school athletics event. From a lawn chair behind the backstop and shaded toward the Tigers' dugout at baseball games, to a spot a few rows off the court at basketball games, to her place amid a throng of fans as the football team recast the Valley's standard for excellence, Dalious was among the last of a unique breed.

She didn't coach within a small window of time while one of her own children competed, nor did she sever ties when she came off the school district's payroll.

Dalious devoted her working years and those beyond to the development and support of student-athletes.

"She was tough on her players but she also cared a lot about the team and you as an individual," said Hoffman. "She taught you not only field hockey but life lessons that you carry with you throughout your life"

This week, Southern Columbia honored her memory by dedicating the field hockey field in Dalious' name.

So add hers to a list of names that includes Christy Mathewson, Harold L. Bolig, Robert Redman and so many others.

Certainly future generations will be curious enough to Google the name and learn exactly what made Dalious a person worthy of such a tribute.

Which means she will be touching students' lives ad infinitum, and I can't think of a greater honor.

Scott Dudinskie covers high school field hockey for The Daily Item. Email comments to sdudinskie@dailyitem.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ScottDudinskie.