Jessica Russell has always had a passion for field hockey, and several of the important role models in her life were coaches in the sports she played.
That led the 2018 graduate of Thomas College in Waterville to explore a coaching career, and she has landed her first full-time job as the head coach of the Brewer High School field hockey team.
Russell, a native of Pembroke, New Hampshire, was a volunteer assistant at Brewer last year under Sarah Estes, who stepped down after five seasons due to expanding job responsibilities.
Estes will stay involved in field hockey as the head coach of the Brewer Community School’s middle school team.
Russell, a goalkeeper at Thomas for four years, got to know Estes through their affiliation with Thomas College. Estes also attended Thomas and played field hockey there.
Russell was an all-state goalkeeper at Bishop Brady High School in New Hampshire, and played basketball and softball growing up.
“I’m excited. I know a lot of the girls, which is great. Coaching is a passion of mine and is something I can turn to to keep me grounded,” said the enthusiastic Russell, who graduated from Thomas with a degree in forensic psychology and criminal justice, and is a social worker in Bangor.
“The coaches I played for were always caring and helpful. They led me to become who I am today,” she said.
She hopes to instill her passion for field hockey in her players while also helping them learn the game and develop as people.
Russell, one of the youngest head coaches in the state, said she is looking forward to the challenge.
“When you’re sitting on the sidelines as a coach, you find a whole new energy level you never knew existed because you’re getting an opportunity to see your players be successful.”
Estes led the Witches to three playoff appearances in five seasons, once in Class A and twice in Class B. Brewer upset Old Town in the first round of the 2017 playoffs for their first playoff win in over 20 years.
The youthful Witches went 5-9 last fall and finished 12th in Class B North and missed the playoffs.
“This year is about building the program,” Russell said. “I’m very fortunate to have 15 upperclassmen. A lot of them are already skill-developed players.”
She expects to have a team that has a more competitive spirit and game knowledge as a result of the experience they gained a year ago.
“We want to win some games and develop a positive spirit. I’m eager to see how we match up in Class A,” Russell said.
Brewer Athletic Director Dave Utterback said the players lobbied him to hire Russell after they got to know her last season.
“She really knows the culture of field hockey here even though she had been here only one year,” Utterback said. “She did a real good job last year. The kids spoke highly of her.”
Russell was one of two applicants for the job.