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Exciting Choices

Neil Duffy

Whether teaching physics or coaching lacrosse and basketball, Mr. Neil Duffy's excitement comes from helping his students succeed and grow.

So, it is no surprise that when US Lacrosse named him recipient of the Gerald J. Carroll, Jr. Exemplary Coaching Award - which goes annually to only one coach in the entire nation - Mr. Duffy chose to praise others.

“I accept this recognition with much gratitude on behalf all of the hundreds of fantastic players and fellow coaches with whom I have been so fortunate to work over the last thirty years," he wrote in thanking the Carroll family.

Mr. Tom Duquette, who stepped down last summer after 38 seasons as Head Varsity Boys Lacrosse Coach, nominated Mr. Duffy for the award. The two friends coached together in NA's lacrosse program for a quarter-century. 

“Coach Duffy has had a deep and long-lasting impact on hundreds of players and students," Mr. Duquette said in his nomination. “With the award's heavy emphasis on the development of players, not just on the field but off, Coach Duffy is an ideal choice for the Carroll Award."

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Mr. Duffy joined the Norfolk Academy family in 1994. He cited his experience with Navy Lacrosse, as well as the support of his own coaches, teammates, and fellow alumni, as central to his daily work. He currently teaches physics, is Head Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, and an assistant Boys Varsity Lacrosse coach, helping Head Coach Ryan Tucker. He has also taught physical science and algebra and coached a variety of boys and girls teams at the Lower School, Middle School, Junior Orange, and Junior Varsity levels.

One of the letters of support for Mr. Duffy came from Norfolk Academy Headmaster Dennis Manning. “Neil is in the pantheon of great teachers in a three centuries-long tradition at Norfolk Academy -- he will go down in our school's annals as one of the greatest teachers, coaches, and role models our school has known," Mr. Manning wrote. “He is among the most selfless, caring, supportive, involved, tirelessly dedicated and engaged mentors, teachers, and coaches I have known in my career. Neil's students and players revere him."

US Lacrosse is the national governing body of that sport and home of the U.S. National team. Its Gerald J. Carroll Award annually recognizes a coach whose “success is measured by the care and guidance that he gives to the balanced development of the students who play the game."

Many of Mr. Duffy's players have gone on to coaching and teaching careers of their own. Others have followed in his footsteps in serving in our nation's military. Mr. Duffy beams in pride and gratitude when reflecting about his current and former players, preferring to highlight their accomplishments, rather than his own.

“Probably the greatest joy for me after all these years now is to watch my students and players leave high school and move on to the countless amazing things they are doing, including many who have gone on to play at the collegiate, professional, and international levels and lead their teams in those settings," he wrote.

Mr. Duffy has published two novels, The Spirit in the Stick and Fly to Honor. He also maintains a blog, Spirit in the Stick: Lessons on Lacrosse and Life.


To learn more about Norfolk Academy's athletics program and teacher-coach model, please visit our website

Additional Photos

Head varsity girls basketball coach Neil Duffy during the team's 2020 %22Someone Special%22 game.

Head varsity girls basketball coach Neil Duffy during the team's 2020 Someone Special game.

Head varsity girls basketball coach Neil Duffy before the team's 2020 %22Someone Special%22 game.

Head varsity girls basketball coach Neil Duffy before the team's 2020 Someone Special game.

Teacher-coach Neil Duffy speaks to players at a DA Taylor Tournament game.

Teacher-coach Neil Duffy speaks to players at a DA Taylor Tournament game.

Neil Duffy teaches physics, and coaches lacrosse and basketball. 

Neil Duffy teaches physics, and coaches lacrosse and basketball. 

Teacher-coaches Neil Duffy, left, and Tom Duquette, right, with former Bulldog Chazz Woodson, who is now a teacher-coach.

Teacher-coaches Neil Duffy, left, and Tom Duquette, right, with former Bulldog Chazz Woodson, who is now a teacher-coach in Florida and ambassador for the sport of lacrosse. 

From left, Neil Duffy, Ensign Ryan Wade '14, USN, and Tom Duquette.

From left, teacher-coach Neil Duffy, Ensign Ryan Wade '14, USN, and teacher-coach Tom Duquette.

From left, Ensign Ryan Wade '14, USN, Neil Duffy, Pete Striffler (standing in for LT Brian Striffler '07, USN), and Matt Hage

From left, Ensign Ryan Wade '14, USN, Neil Duffy, Pete Striffler (standing in for LT Brian Striffler '07, USN), and Matt Hage '01