Scott Tupper’s fiery coaching style helped stabilize Maryland’s field hockey defense

Missy Meharg had an open position on her team after the 2020 season. The veteran Maryland field hockey coach was unhappy with her team’s defensive performance in recent years, so she began to scrutinize the hockey world. on grass looking for an assistant to help improve it.

It didn’t take him long to find the perfect target.

Scott Tupper had played and coached all over the world before Meharg approached him to come to College Park. He had represented Canada at several Olympics, then worked his way up the coaching ranks to an assistant position at Lafayette, a position he was holding when Meharg called him to offer him the job.

After a lengthy recruiting process, Tupper brought his extensive resume and international experience to the staff at Meharg. Now in his sophomore year, a rigorous and demanding coaching style has helped Tupper reshape the Terps’ backfield and turn them into one of the best units in the nation.

His time with Maryland was characterized by “ebbs and flows,” Meharg said, due to how players initially reacted to his abrasive training methods.

“There were times,” said senior defender Maura Verleg. “We were never used to him being tough enough on us. I just had to get used to it. »

Tupper, a Seattle Seahawks fan, admires Pete Carroll and his coaching philosophies. He has read Carroll’s book and is applying its lessons to his own career. His international playing and coaching experiences developed his tactical acumen, but Carroll’s teachings shaped his day-to-day approach.

Carroll knew he couldn’t guarantee how his players would look in practice, Tupper said. But as a coach, the two know they have to show up every day to ensure the quality of the session, he said. He makes a point of that, trying to increase the energy and demand more from his players.

Meharg, Tupper and the rest of the coaching staff managed all aspects of the team together during the 2021 season. Meharg sought to change that for 2022 and segment their responsibilities. She specified that Tupper would become the defensive coordinator, allowing him to work full-time with the unit.

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The position group is led by Verleg, who occupies the center of the field in a position similar to that of Tupper. This has led to a distinctive relationship between coach and player where the former scrutinizes the latter’s play.

“She might even have a more critical eye…because I really have an idea of ​​how I want this position played,” Tupper said. “She hears my voice rising in her direction more than others.”

Verleg said she learned a lot from Tupper over the past two years.

“I can definitely see that I’ve grown as a player,” she said. “He knows exactly what I should do in specific situations.”

Rayne Wright doesn’t play Tupper’s old position, but she’s just as instrumental for the Terps due to her ability to anchor the sideline defensively and eliminate opponents’ passing options.

“She’s extremely, extremely reliable defensively,” Tupper said. “She can be a really tough player to play one-on-one…She’s tough. Although we are not a contact sport, tenacity is an important part of playing defense and being good off the ball. I think she checks a lot of those boxes.

She won National and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors earlier this season when Maryland held Iowa and Northwestern to one goal apiece. Wright in particular blocked Bente Baekers, who lead the Wildcats with 18 goals, to one goal.

“He’s got so much experience,” Wright said. “He has so much simple insight. If you play simple defense, simple hockey, it will be the best brand of hockey. »

Tupper began to gain this field hockey experience and insight when he was about six years old. Growing up in Canada, his family had no connection to sports and his first goal was ice hockey.

But the father of a childhood friend who played for Canada’s national field hockey team introduced a young Tupper to the sport.

The game became a way for him to keep in touch with the friend as the two grew older and grew apart and in high school, field hockey overtook ice hockey as the center of attention.

[Maryland field hockey has found ways to score without Hope Rose]

The defense appealed to him. It became the position he started playing full-time, originally out of necessity because he wasn’t the fastest player, he said.

He joined Canada’s national team years later. He participated in three Olympic Games and more than a dozen other international tournaments and played 313 career games.

Tupper holds the Canadian record for goals in a single game with five at the 2016 Rio Olympics and served as team captain from 2012.

“He’s a world-class centre-back,” Meharg said.

Canada lags behind other nations that dominate the sport’s international game, giving Tupper the chance to play against top-tier competition, often as an underdog.

Games and practice can get tough, especially playing with the overmatched team, Tupper said. He made a point of separating the game on the field from the surrounding experience of competitions to get a fuller appreciation.

“I’ve really enjoyed every time I’ve been able to be in an athlete’s village,” he said. “Even the simple things like being in the dining room with all the different countries.”

Tupper credits the wide range of coaches he played for and the skill of his opponents with influencing his coaching style. He picked up techniques, strategies and ideas at each of his stops, giving him a unique coaching style with contributions from around the world.

His first stop as a coach was at youth level in his home country. He sent eight Canadians to Division I programs as head of programming and recruiting and on-field coach at the Rob Short Coaching Academy in Vancouver. Later, he coached Canada’s U21 Men’s National Team for three years.

Tupper moved to the NCAA and joined Lafayette’s coaching staff Jennifer Stone as an assistant for the 2020 season. Later that year, Meharg reached out and Stone allowed her to accept the job. offer, which he eventually accepted.

“It took me by surprise,” Tupper said. “Missy is someone who has done a lot in women’s football and has been an iconic coach in the sport. To hear her say that she would be interested in me putting my name in the hat was flattering but also very exciting. .

Maryland is coming off a two-game streak where it beat opponents 76-2, including limiting Georgetown to zero shots on Tuesday, the first time it has done so against an opponent in three years.

The Terps also sport the second-best scoring margin in Division I this season, powered by the nation’s best offense, but Meharg credits much of the praise to a defense that has allowed the nation’s 19th-fewest goals.

“I credit it more to our defense and how we structure and manage the ball,” she said. “We’re so clean and crisp.”

Maryland is poised to wrap up one of the best regular seasons in program history. He’ll play four more games before moving on to the Big Ten tournament – where he’ll likely be the No. 1 seed.

Tupper’s demanding approach and vast experience have transformed the Terps’ defense. During his first year in charge of the unit, he helped turn a part of Team Meharg seen as a weakness into one of his team’s greatest strengths.