Softball Coach reaches 200 wins as team's successes mount

Whittier's Varsity Softball Coach Cheryl Begin celebrated a momentous achievement this spring when she marked her 200th win, but for her, it was just another day on the field working with her girls.

Now in her 14th year coaching varsity softball, Begin started at Whittier in 1994 as a security monitor (she is now head of security and the student mediator for the school) and it didn't take long for her to get involved with student athletics.

In 1996 she took on the first assistant coach position for softball, and over the years built the team to be one of the best in the league.

"My first two years, we were 5-15," Begin recalled. "Now we're 20-2, 18-2, 19-3. We changed from a team that was average to a team that's great. Students are very invested in the program. They come to practice every day ready to work and you can see their dedication to building on their skills and being the best they can be."

For the last four years, the Whittier softball team has been the Commonwealth Athletic Conference champions, and over the last 12 years, they've made it to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.

Sophomore Alicia Habib, of Haverhill, joined the team as a starting shortstop and pitcher as a freshman. For her, it's about the daily support she receives -- whether she's got a bat in hand or not -- that makes her a better player.

"When you're on the field, she'll push you to make you a better player. She knows you're able to do it," Habib said. "She gives me all the tools I need to succeed. She said, 'use what you want and make it happen.'"

Begin is like a second mom to the 14 girls on the team. It's not uncommon to walk into her office in the athletic department to find students hanging out, chatting about anything and everything. There's a loving trust among them all that only further contributes to the success they maintain as a team.

One of those students is senior second baseman Kelleigh Greaney, of Groveland, who chose to come to Whittier to follow her dream of playing softball and to work with Begin specifically.

"She knew my potential and how great I could be," Greaney said, noting that each year she's worked with Begin she's further earned her spot as a starter on the team. "She pushes us to do more than we think we can do. She's one of the best coaches I've ever had. She's become my family."

In high school Begin was a three-sport athlete, playing field hockey, basketball and of course softball. She understands the adrenaline her girls feel at the start of each game, the excitement of a game won, or the disappointment of a match lost. But most of all, she gets the love of the game and the passion her students feel every time they step onto the field.

On April 11, Begin celebrated her 200th win in a game against Shawsheen Tech. Due to her selflessness, though, Begin wasn't aware of the milestone until Athletic Director Kevin Bradley notified her of the achievement.

"Cheryl is like the Bill Belichick of the Whittier softball team," Bradley said, who works directly with Begin as the coach and assistant coach, respectively, of the girls basketball team. "Success is no surprise to me. It's not just about what she does on the field, it's about what she does off it too. A lot of the students call her mom because of her commitment and dedication and they bring that same passion to the game because they want to make mom proud."

With the last games scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, the team stands at 11-2 (with 209 wins for Begin). But it's not about the number of victories. It's about the experience Begin is able to have with her team year after year.

"I'm proud of the program, I'm proud of the girls," Begin said. "I think it's that pride that makes me work hard at this. They push me to be better."

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Whittier Tech