Debbie McQuaid is retiring from education but staying in the game.
After 41 years as a teacher and administrator — the last three as a guidance counselor and head field hockey coach at Easton High — McQuaid will retire Aug. 31 from the Talbot County public school system.
“I am going to be 63 in November. And it's time,” McQuaid said with a laugh. “I want to enjoy retirement while I'm young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it.”
In addition to it being “time,” McQuaid said her decision was also influenced by the loss of her brother, Mike Morse, who passed away July 12, 2017, at age 60 after fighting cancer.
“My brother plays a lot into this because I think, man, he turned 60. He didn't have a retirement,” McQuaid said. “I don't want that. That was as big part of, now, I guess. Mike and some other friends that passed away too young. I'm like, you know let's step back and enjoy some time.”
Because she was retiring, McQuaid could not coach this season at Easton High. But when Saints Peter and Paul learned of McQuaid's decision, it contacted her to see if she would want to fill the coaching vacancy created by Suzanne McGettigan, who stepped down in January after three seasons at the helm of the Sabres.
“Somebody let Saints Peter and Paul know that I wasn't coaching at Easton and like (said), 'Oh, we have an opening,'” McQuaid said.
McQuaid already has an assistant in place, Missy Cannon, who lost her position as head field hockey coach at St. Michaels High after eight years when a teacher within the school system applied for the head coaching position. Talbot County has a longstanding policy of giving teachers preference for coaching positions.
“With everything that happened to Missy, I was like, 'Maybe she and I can team up and work together,'” said McQuaid, who coached Cannon at St. Michaels. “So retirement without field hockey wasn't going to be much fun.”
McQuaid has previously coached at Sts. Peter and Paul, 2015 being her last season. She was named head coach at Easton in 2017, taking a team that had gone 3-10 the year and guiding it to a 9-5 season that ended with a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Queen Anne's in the Class 2A South semifinals.
“Edie (Bishop) and I had turned the program around,” McQuaid said. “I really feel like we got them back into what Easton field hockey was supposed to be.”
The Warriors, who went 24-18 during McQuaid's three years as head coach, will now be under the direction of Easton High graduate Allison Szymanski, who was a junior varsity assistant last year.
“I knew Ali Szymanski really wanted to be a head coach,” McQuaid said. “She's young, and it's like, 'Why not before she goes somewhere else? Just go ahead and turn the program over to her.' I know turning it over to her was going to be seamless and I wasn't going to be leaving them in a lurch. She's eager and she'll take it up a notch.
“Her skill set wasn't set to be an assistant jayvee coach,” McQuaid continued of Szymanski, who played travel ball for McQuaid. “She had more to give the program. So by me leaving she could apply for the head coach. She's qualified. She played in college (St. Mary's). Now she's got a couple years of teaching under her belt and it's going to be easier.”
While Szymanski's arrival made McQuaid's decision to step down easier, the bonds she established with the Easton players made it difficult to leave.
“The kids,” McQuaid answered when asked why she continues coaching. “Just the relationships you build. Watching them learn something new, grow as a team, mature.
“When I left Saints Peter and Paul last time I hated to leave the kids I had because I was really attached to them,” she continued. “And now I hate to leave the Easton kids because I got attached to them. I'll just move forward and meet some new kids.”
Citing her desire to watch her daughter Nancy play and the demands of her new physical therapy business, McGettigan ended her three-year stint at Sabres head coach in January.
“I started out on my own in October and it got to be quite hectic,” McGettingan said of her business. "I do all private and home patients and my caseload's picked up a lot. And I just knew (this) fall it would be very hard to juggle it all.
“She's going to be a senior and I just kind of want to be a parent on the sideline and pray they have a season,” McGettigan said of her daughter. “I was very grateful when I heard that Debbie was going to be coming back because when I stepped down we had no idea who was going to take over.”