Kelly Vrooman is a tough-love coach who will have her Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey players run for miles and drill for long stretches, and then give them plenty of praise and pats on the back.
“You coach how you were coached,” Vrooman said.
Vrooman’s coach in her high school days was Dawn Dickinson Roberts [then O’Neil], who died last Thursday in Florida, and left a resume dotted by many noteworthy achievements, including the 1987 state Class A field hockey championship.
“I am sad she is gone,” Vrooman said of the coach she played four years for. “She is a women I am glad I came across. At the end of my career there, it was, ‘Wow, I had a great experience.’ I have great memories, and that inspires me to give my kids that kind of experience.”
Vrooman was among a large group of seniors on that 1987 edition that went 21-1-2 and became the first team from Burnt Hills in any sport to capture a state title. The Spartans were also the first Class A field hockey team from Section II to secure a New York crown.
“She instilled in us to be the best we could be,” Vrooman said of her mentor, who at that time was married to legendary Burnt Hills football coach Murry O’Neil. “She was a very inspirational person.”
The Spartans were a motivated team after losing early in the Section II field hockey tournament in 1986. The following year Dickinson Roberts, “Let us go,” said Vrooman. “She let the reins loose a bit to see what we could do.”
Those Spartans in 1987 won league, Section II and regional titles before earning their state flag. Their final game was a 3-0 victory over Centereach, when Vrooman assisted on the first goal.
“She was a good, tough coach,” Vrooman said. “We needed it that year.”
That 1987 team was inducted into the Burnt Hills Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
“Our one word all year long has been awesome, and that’s what it is. This year has been terrific, and it’s been easy for me because these kids are so good to work with,” Dickinson Roberts said the day her team clinched the state title. “They’re so good to be around. They gave 100 percent all the time. We’re graduating 17, so for them this game and this season is something they’ll never forget. It’s extremely nice to see them end this way.”
Dickinson Roberts taught physical education and coached in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district for 34 years. She attended Ellenville High School, graduating in 1955, and later attended Cortland State, graduating from there in 1959.