Crediting Support From Players, Colleagues, PDS Coach Thomas Enters N.J. Lax Hall of Fame
NO DOUBTING THOMAS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse coach Jill Thomas surveys the action in a game last year. Thomas was recently inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Guiding the PDS program since 1998, Thomas has amassed more than 500 career wins. Her teams have won five Patriot League Championships, a Mercer County Championship in 2010, and a MCT second-place finish in 2011. In addition, Thomas has led the Panthers to Prep B state titles in 2015, 2016, and 2017. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Longtime Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse head coach Jill Thomas wasn’t sure what was up when she was summoned to a meeting with Head of School Paul Stellato this past December.
Thomas got a pleasant surprise as she learned from Stellato that she has been voted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“I was actually pretty shocked; Tracy (assistant coach Tracy Young) got the seniors together and I was called into the Head of School’s office,” recalled Thomas.
“Paul announced it in front of the seniors, which to me, that was the best. They set it up right and I wouldn’t want to hear it any other way than from those kids.”
Thomas knew from a young age that coaching was the right path for her. Influenced by her father, a college coach and athletic director, Thomas headed from her native new New England to Ursinus College, where she earned a degree in Health and PE in 1976.
She came to PDS in 1988 and took the helm of the girls’ lacrosse varsity team in 1998, relishing the chance to guide the storied program.
“I like success. I am a competitor,” said Thomas, who also coached basketball and field hockey at PDS.
“It was a good fit. They were good kids; some of these kids were playing field hockey or basketball and they fell into lacrosse.”
During her tenure, Thomas has piled up more than 500 career wins. Her teams have won five Patriot League Championships, a Mercer County Championship in 2010, and a MCT second-place finish in 2011. In addition, Thomas has led the Panthers to Prep B state titles in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Noting that the game has evolved and that the players are more and more skilled every year, Thomas relies on bedrock values in guiding the Panthers.
“I think some of the things that I believe in and I hold very dear — fundamentals, sense of team and camaraderie and all of the life lessons you learn in sports,” said Thomas.
“It is cool when the kids can get back and say you still do that; those things have stood the test of time, so to speak. At the same time, all successful coaches have to remain students of the game.”
In assessing her successful run, Thomas is quick to spread the credit. “It just says varsity head coach after my name, but the wins have been the results of a lot of hours, a lot of heartache, a lot of really good times and a lot of good people having a role in it,” said Thomas.
“The kids want to do well and we have been fortunate enough to be able to do well. PDS has fostered a sense of pride and they have given me the opportunity to do that.”
At the Hall of Fame induction ceremony last month, Thomas took the opportunity to thank her support system.
“It was about how honored and humbled I am,” said Thomas, noting that a large group of PDS administration, friends, colleagues, and players were in attendance at the induction ceremony.
“It was about all the amazing people that have made this possible. It was heartfelt. Successful people surround themselves with successful people and I have had the pleasure of working with so many successful people that it has been wonderful.”
With the 2018 lax season around the corner, Thomas is ready to get to work as the Panthers go after a fourth straight Prep B crown.
“There is a lot that is going to happen between now and then,” said Thomas. “I get charged and really psyched every year.”