More than 120 alumni, spanning several decades, tuned into our Virtual Alumni Seminar on Norfolk Academy lacrosse to pay tribute to Teacher-Coach Tom Duquette and reminisce about the dynamic program he led for 38 years.
That seminar, held April 30, is part of a series of events NA is holding via Zoom for alumni during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teacher-Coach Jack Gibson '08 led a seminar the week before Coach Duquette, and Charlotte Zito '99 leads a book discussion this week. Other seminars are planned, including a May 14 discussion on NA field hockey's illustrious history.
Norfolk Academy lacrosse has been successful by almost any measure, Coach Duquette said as he opened his seminar. Our Bulldogs have won more than 20 TCIS championships. They have been state champs nine times: 1978, '79, '84, '85, '93, '94, '95, '96, and 2003. Countless student-athletes have gone on to play in college, and more than a few have played either professionally or on U.S. National Teams.
Mr. Duquette was quick to point out that he took over an already strong program - the first two state titles came under Coach Tinsley van Durand. All the achievements stemmed from the work the players put in, Mr. Duquette added.
“We have been successful because of you guys," he said.
As Coach spoke, video of a decades-old NA game played behind him. His office was filled with memorabilia from former players and squads; a photo of D.A. Taylor; a plaque from the 1984 champions; tee shirts worn a long time ago.
In all the years he coached, Mr. Duquette - who retired from lacrosse last summer but remains an Upper School Math Teacher and department chairman - heard one constant from opposing coaches. They were amazed at how tough Norfolk Academy teams competed.
“That is a credit to you guys who played hard," Coach said, adding that fierce competition happened both in games and practices.
Those in the discussion emphasized that Coach Duquette also deserved credit. Headmaster Dennis Manning called him the “Haley's Comet of teacher-coaches."
“I've never known a greater teacher-coach," Mr. Manning said.
Current head coach Ryan Tucker said he learned so much from Coach Duquette, and relied on him extensively as he prepared for this spring season. The pandemic cut the season short, but the 2020 Bulldogs will go down as one of the few undefeated squads in NA history.
That's because they were confident yet unselfish, dedicated team players, Coach Tucker said. Those are values reinforced over the years at NA that will live on in seasons to come.
So, which NA team was the greatest? The consensus: That's impossible to answer.
It's also beside the point. Paul Kelley '93 won one of those state titles, but said the life lessons he learned from Coach Duquette were what proved most valuable over time.
Coach Duquette told a story about the valedictory speech of Jack Gibson '08, who is now a teacher-coach at NA. Mr. Gibson dreamed of winning a state title like his dad, John Gibson. He fell short of that dream - losing in double-overtime in the final his senior year. But on the ride home, with players still laughing and bonding, he realized that the memories formed through the program were what mattered most.
John Gibson '78, said it was “humbling" just to be a student-athlete for NA lacrosse.
“It's part of a special circle," Mr. Gibson said. "It is truly a special situation to be part of."
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