As far back as she can remember, teenager Taylor Warburton has been attending the Connecticut Choice Girls’ Lacrosse Camp at Cheshire High School. With her father Dan being the head coach at CHS and lead instructor of the four-day summer camp, Taylor has enjoyed sharing a passion and seeing her skills develop over the years.
“As a kid, I always loved the camp because it has a competitive nature and provides great instruction,” reflected Warburton. “When I think back on all of the things I’ve learned, a lot of the stuff came from the summer program.”
After graduating from high school last month, Warburton returned to the camp setting in a new role. From July 12-15 on the turf field at CHS, she became an official coach and worked with incoming fourth- through ninth-graders.
“It felt really weird to coach,” explained Warburton. “You notice when the kids are happy or tired and think, that used to be me at one point.”
This year, she enjoyed getting to interact with youngsters without face masks.
“It is nice to see the kids improve on something that you had talked to them about,” said Warburton. “I love coaching.”
“She (Taylor) has been around the camp since she was in kindergarten and pre-K,” recalled Dan Warburton. “It is nice to do something in lacrosse with her since she has graduated now (from high school).”
Traditionally, Dan Warburton gets alums and current Ram players to help him out at the camp. This year, Annie Acquavita (2019), Raegan Bailey (2021), Sophia Kuhlthau (2021), Vicki Palmer (2017), Mia Pulisciano (2018), and Taylor Warburton coached as CHS graduates.
“All of the girls have knowledge of lacrosse and have been strong leaders. We make sure that they are outgoing people,” said Dan Warburton, who has run his camp for 18 years. “Some of our coaches have played in college or they are playing now. They can pass down what they’ve learned over the years.”
While the coronavirus pandemic canceled countless events last year, Dan Warburton felt fortunate to be able to still run his camp. Just over 40 campers were asked to adjust to different safety protocols.
“The kids had to wear masks on arrival and dismissal. The coaches had to wear them at all times,” said Dan Warburton. “We worked out in cohorts and did daily health forms. All things considered, it was good to pull off the camp.”
With health restrictions lessened this year, Dan Warburton was excited to have a camp-record of 62 girls sign up through the Cheshire Parks and Recreation Department. The previous high mark was 58 campers.
“I know that people signed up early. Usually, some wait until the last minute, but this time families were making plans one or two months in advance,” stated Dan Warburton. “After this past year and a half, I think that a lot of people haven’t been able to do as much and want to get outside now.”
Over the years, Dan Warburton has seen a lot of players develop their skills in the camp and then go on to play for him at CHS.
“It is nice to provide the girls with a look at what they will see at the high school level,” explained Dan Warburton. “It is good to give the kids an opportunity to get to know each other and play a little bit.”
During the summer program, campers participate in drills and also play games. Since the camp usually runs in hot weather, the coaches like to bring out sprinklers during breaks and let the kids cool off.
“We used a hose last year to spray people down because the kids had to be in cohorts,” said Dan Warburton. “If the kids feel like they had a great time, that is a good thing.”
He feels that bigger numbers allows the coaches to run more activities.
“As a town program, we get pretty good sign-ups,” said Dan Warburton. “There are a lot of people who play lacrosse in Cheshire.”
A two-time Class L and Southern Connecticut Conference Coach of the Year honoree at CHS, Dan Warburton has helped build the Rams into one of the top girls’ lacrosse programs in the state. Since Warburton took over in 2002, Cheshire has won or shared 10 Southern Connecticut Conference regular-season titles and captured six SCC tournament crowns.
After the pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 season, the Rams returned to post a 12-6 record this spring.
On and off the field, Taylor Warburton feels that she has benefited from her father’s leadership.
“I’ve learned from him about confidence and authority. It makes you a better coach when you have those qualities,” said Warburton. “My dad is good at public speaking.”
This year was an emotional experience, as Warburton competed in her final season for her dad.
“Playing for him made an interesting balance that we never got used to until my senior year,” said Taylor Warburton, who captained the 2021 Rams with Bailey and Kuhlthau. “He can’t favor me and I had to treat him as my coach instead of my father.”
A four-year varsity player, Taylor Warburton earned a career-high 57 and 23 assists in 2021. She earned honors such as All-Class L and All-SCC First Team and Record-Journal Player of the Year, as well as Academic All-American and All-State. Warburton also shared the Lacrosse Award with Bailey, a four-year starter for the Rams.
“Going into this year, we had no idea what the season would look like, but it turned out great,” reflected Warburton. “We didn’t need to go into a team lockdown (because of Covid). I was happy about that.”
While saddened to end her career, Warburton looks forward to still being able to coach in the summer program.
“It feels strange to stop playing lacrosse, because it has been such a huge part of my life,” said Warburton, who will attend Sacred Heart University this fall. “I may play on a club team, but want to see how my schedule works out going into Nursing.”