Helping hands: Hoop community pitches in to assist Tiger girls

By Mike Whaley

FARMINGTON – Dawn Weeks was in a bit of a pickle. It was the eve of the 2023-24 NHIAA Division IV girls basketball season and her Farmington High School junior varsity and assistant coach had just stepped down. The chances were extremely slim at that point that she could find a quality replacement before the preseason began.

So Weeks asked the Farmington sports community for assistance. And they delivered. Weeks’ high school coach, Cheryl Peabody, agreed to help out on a part-time basis with her daughter, Debbie. Weeks’ daughter, a junior at Maine Maritime Academy, also said yes to pitching in when she could, as did former Farmington HS three-sport star Jenn Haskell. Suddenly Weeks had a quality staff which brought a variety of strong perspectives to the Tigers.

“They’re my dream team,” said coach Weeks. “I’m so blessed to have so many knowledgeable people in the gym at the same time. They don’t need to be micromanaged.”

Head Coach Dawn Weeks in the huddle with assistant coaches (from left to right) Debbie Peabody, Jenn Haskell & Cheryl Peabody looking on.

Peabody was the first person Weeks asked for help. While she couldn’t provide full-time assistance, she was eager to do what she could on a part-time basis. “I want to feel like I’m useful,” said Peabody, who coached the Farmington girls during two different stints in the 1980s and 1990s, guiding FHS to its only championship appearance in 1989, an overtime loss to Mascoma. “I haven’t really felt useful for the last couple years. For many different reasons it’s been horrible the last couple of years (her husband, Bill, died suddenly in 2022). I feel like I need to give back. I haven’t made a difference at all. I feel like I’ve got to start getting involved. Farmington’s the tribe. It’s where all the people I love and care about. It just seems right to go back there to help.”

Ditto for her daughter, who recently bought a home in Farmington. Debbie grew up in town, playing basketball with the youth program at the 500 Boys & Girls Club. Although she later attended Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, starring on state championship basketball and volleyball teams, Farmington has always been near and dear to her heart. “I like the fact that I can give back to a community that gave me so much,” she said. Debbie and her mom also help out with the 500 peewee girls hoop program on Saturdays.

Haskell is a 1995 Farmington HS grad. She later played three sports at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, scoring over 1,000 points in basketball. She’s been coaching three sports at the 500 including a Grade 3-4 travel team. Her daughter, Rory, is in the program. When Weeks asked her to help out with the high school team, she was happy to do so. “I’ve been able to coach some of them at the junior high level for volleyball,” she said. “It’s such a great group of girls.”

Chloe Weeks is home for winter break from Maine Maritime where she is a dual major and stars on the school’s volleyball team. A 2021 Farmington HS graduate, she was an all-state performer in both volleyball and basketball. She’ll be able to help out full time until she returns to school on Jan. 15. Before that she was able to attend the first scrimmage and several practices. “When I’m gone, luckily Pack Network is streaming games, so I can still keep up with them,” she said. Going forward, her spring college schedule will allow her to return to Farmington for Friday night games. She’ll watch the games she can’t attend on the stream, texting/phoning her perspective to her mom.

Another Tiger alumna, Brandi Foster Everidge, is acting as the scorekeeper for the JV and varsity teams and helps out at practices.

The still young Tiger team (one senior) is 4-2 in D-IV. They started 4-0, but lost Friday at Profile, 47-37, struggling in the first half with the Patriots’ full-court press. Tuesday they fell at Franklin, 46-35, playing the game without their best player who missed the game due to a death in the family.

Because her assistants have busy schedules that prevent them from making every game and practice, Weeks seldom has a full complement of coaches. But, she said, she consistently has at least three. She is coaching both teams – a total of 16 girls. The JVs and varsity practice together.

“It’s great to have bodies in different parts of the gym,” Weeks said. “I don’t have to see and do everything. With 16 players, we have a (coaching) body for every couple of players. We can break things down for them.”

The young coaches, Debbie and Chloe, give the Tigers two energetic young women who have a passion for defense. “They’re not nice,” laughed Weeks. “They’re pushing the kids – ‘why are you letting her go past you? You’re doing all this work for nothing if you’re letting her walk right by you.’”

Weeks feels it’s great to have perspectives from the older and younger women. “(The players) get to see it from different points of view,” she said.

Weeks laughs. “I have tunnel vision. I’m not going to lie,” she said. “I watch the ball. It’s really great to get the breakdown of other things from people who know what they’re talking about.”

Weeks played for Peabody from 1987 to 1991 on the high school team. A lot of who she is as a coach is due to Peabody. “I have my own style,” she said. “But I love the commitment, the dedication, the hard work that is required; the attitude, the respect, the team (unity). All that came from her and I absolutely try to instill that in my players. Setting goals. We set goals before the season. We set goals before every game.”

There was an instance earlier this year where one of her players was called for a foul for boxing out too hard, knocking down an opponent. “I didn’t think it was a foul,” Weeks said. “I was jumping up and down, yelling ‘you keep doing that!’ That’s totally Cheryl.”

Peabody likes what she sees in her former player. “Dawn’s really good about talking about life’s lessons. She calls her team, her queens. We had a nice talk the other day. With that title, queen, comes a great deal of responsibility. It goes beyond basketball. You have to be the type of person that goes out of your way to help people. Be the leaders of the school. You have to use that power as queens to make a difference yourself. That’s kind of the mantra of all the coaches.”

That’s a big thing for Peabody – using sports to teach life lessons. “Coaching isn’t about the sport,” she said. “It’s about the people and the relationships and keeping in touch and making a difference later in life.”

She referenced the dark time nearly two years ago when she was trying to pick up the pieces after her husband died. “They were there for me as family,” she said. “That’s why it felt so natural to help this group out.”

Cheryl Peabody (back right) with the Farmington 500 5th/6th grade girls travel team back in 2020.

This team has a special place for Peabody, who coached some of them on a fifth- and sixth-grade team before the Covid-19 pandemic. She also likes being the elder stateswoman. “It’s good for me to be Grammie Cheryl to keep everything aligned and working together,” she said. “To help the kids out and be all they can be.”

For Jenn (Krawczyk) Haskell, she gets to coach with a good friend (Dawn) and her old coach (Cheryl). She remembers earlier this season when all the women were there on the same night. “That was really a significant moment for me,” she said. “We’re coaching this great group of girls and I’m thinking to myself: ‘Dawn is like my sister. We grew up together. She was one of my first peewee coaches. And Cheryl was my fifth-grade teacher and my high school coach. Pretty special.”

Pretty special for the young kids – Chloe and Debbie – to give back. “We’ve gone through the (high school) experience and being a bit younger, we can hop out there and practice with them,” Chloe said. “We show them how aggressive they need to be. We just try to show the girls everything they could face and try to help them improve.”

“I grew up in Farmington,” Debbie said. “I got that perspective of growing up there. The Farmington quality of life. Work hard, never die.”

Debbie recalls the structure she had growing up with a dad who was a U.S. Marine and a mom who was a coach and school administrator. “I try to influence the girls on and off the court the same way,” she said. “I think just giving that structure to the girls is super important.”

There’s plenty of season to play, and the goal is to get better by the time tournament season rolls around in February. “That’s the ultimate goal, to bring them from point A to point B,” Peabody said. “It’s still what being a teammate is all about. They were all teammates (she says of the other coaches). They all kind of bring it forward for the next generation to see what it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be done after high school. Your teamwork continues.”

Which is Dawn Weeks’ gain. “It’s a perfect supporting cast,” she said. “It’s great having so many brains to bounce stuff off.”

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