Willimantic, Conn. – This past June, Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Arielle Cooper ’13 coached her high school alma mater to a softball state championship. Cooper, 23-years-old and one year out of college, returned to Fitch High School in Groton to fill in as interim head coach this past April. On June 14, the Falcons finished with a 26–1 record and were Class L state champions.
Originally, Cooper was interested in filling in as the junior varsity coach, but instead was offered the varsity coaching position. “It felt great that the players trusted me as a first-year coach. The team chemistry was amazing. I think that aspect helped us get to the championship,” she said. “It was really rewarding to go back to my alma mater, where it all started for me. I feel like things have come full circle.”
In 2009 — her senior year at Fitch — the Falcons won a state championship with Cooper as their starting third baseman. “Not many people get to experience being a state champion player and coach, so I am grateful for that accomplishment,” Cooper said. “The moment we won the championship game, I just watched the girls celebrate; I remember that feeling very well. It was great to feel like I led the team back to a state title.”
Cooper studied sport and leisure management while at Eastern, and was a star third baseman for the Warriors softball team. “I had an amazing four years at Eastern. I grew through the program; being a Warrior made me a better person and coach,” she said. “I learned more than I thought I would. Coach Pepin and Coach Maneggia were great coaches.”
This past successful season has presented a number of opportunities for Cooper. “I have had a few offers at other schools to coach,” she said, “but I’m not ready to make a big decision yet. I’m hoping to return to Fitch. I still have a while to figure everything out.”
Aside from coaching, Cooper has other career aspirations. “In the near future I’m going to be working towards a master’s degree either in school counseling or education,” she said. “I also wouldn’t mind being an athletic director. That’s always a career in the back of my mind.”