“She knew I was upset,” recalls Mrs. Stone, a current Hun teacher, dorm parent, and longtime friend of Mrs. Quirk. “She pulled me off the bus and said ‘Let’s go call your mom and see how your dad is doing.’ (This was before the age of cellphones.) I called and things were good, and that put me at ease.”
Mrs. Stone offers this as an example of the kind of coach, mentor, and friend that Mrs. Quirk is: highly competitive, but sensitive to the other aspects of her players’ lives.
Mrs. Quirk will retire this spring after forty-six years of coaching. While at Hun, she has coached softball, basketball, field hockey, and cheerleading, and taught physical education and health. As associate athletic director, she has coordinated the logistics of Hun’s busy athletic office since 1993. And she served briefly as athletic director, as well.
“Kathy is a very significant figure in our School's history,” said Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. “Her dedication and skill have been critical to the quality and success of our athletic program, and particularly to the experience of our female athletes.”
Indeed, Coach Quirk has mentored thousands of young athletes. A graduate of Trenton State College who grew up in Runnemede, New Jersey, she arrived at Hun in 1973. Headmaster Paul R. Chesebro hired her to coach sports and teach health and physical education to the School’s recently admitted female students. Coach Quirk was a three-sport athlete in high school and college; she played field hockey, basketball, and softball, and was named top female athlete at Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey) her sophomore year. She would go on to earn a master’s in education from Trenton State.
In the late 1970s, she met Bill Quirk, then a coach at The Pennington School. They married in 1979, and in 1980, he came to work at Hun, where he has been the athletic director for nearly forty years. Fully immersed in boarding school life, the Quirks have always lived on campus, raising their sons Bill ’99 and Patrick ’02 here. (Patrick followed in his parents’ footsteps and is a Hun math teacher and soccer coach.)
When Mrs. Quirk first started coaching, she said, success on the scoreboard was in the forefront of her mind.
“When you are young, you want to win,” she noted. “Later, the questions become, what life lessons do you teach these kids, how do you influence them? Do you make them feel good about themselves whether they win or lose? I’ve tried to teach the importance of working together and sportsmanship, supporting your teammates, and both winning and losing with grace, the life lessons that can be taught through sport.”
Mrs. Quirk leaves behind a storied coaching career. As head softball coach for forty-two years, her teams have won 11 state championships, and numerous MAPL championships. She was inducted into Hun’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, and was named Softball Coach of the Year by both The Trenton Times and The Trentonian. The Star-Ledger named her Prep Coach of the Year, and the Princeton Packet bestowed Coach of the Decade and Program of the Decade honors in 1999. In 2014, she was inducted into the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame.
Some of her favorite memories include winning the softball Prep-A State Championship three years in a row in 1997-99, and in 2017, coaching a team to the State Championship and a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) Championship in the same year. And of course, spring training trips that brought Hun teams to Puerto Rico, Arizona, and Disney.
“There’s a lot of team bonding on those trips,” Coach Quirk said fondly. “You get to see the girls in a different light, both working hard and having fun.”
Those she has coached, and coached against, say she has left an indelible mark.
“Kathy probably taught me how to be less stubborn, to accept criticism, and look at myself more honestly,” said Francesca Bello ’14, who played field hockey at Hun for four years. She went on to play at Villanova, and said Coach Quirk mentored her “every step of the way” to a Division I College career.
“She created an atmosphere where we were able to enjoy our high school experience while still challenging ourselves with a competitive, athletic experience,” Ms. Bello said.
“She was dedicated, encouraging, and a great role model,” said Mrs. Stone of her years playing softball for Coach Quirk. “She modeled a great work ethic in putting in the time and caring about the team. When you played for her, you wanted to do well.”
“I admire how she manages to hold high standards and get kids to outperform,” said Carolyn Conforti-Browse, dean of campus life and head softball coach at Blair Academy. She has coached against Mrs. Quirk for many years.
She describes Coach Quirk as a “go-to friend” and a fierce competitor. “She’s exceptional at giving to others and unrelenting in demanding excellence; I admire her intensity. And she loves all of her kids, the superstars, and the yet-to-become superstars.”
Coach Quirk’s departure from Hun will be a gradual one, as she will leave her administration job but continue to live on campus. And she plans to coach softball through 2020.
“There’s a group of students that I would like to see through to the end of their high school careers,” she noted. As for what she’ll do with her time, babysitting her granddaughters will likely take up most of it.
Coach Quirk hopes she has imparted some life lessons along the way, and “taught each athlete how to be a good person through sports.”
“I hope I’ve taught students that they should follow their dreams, and work hard to achieve them, always giving 100 percent,” she said. “I hope they’ll remember the friends they’ve made and the Hun family that we are all a part of.”