Sarah Knauss, Sue Butz-Stavin’s great-grandmother, is known as the oldest person ever from the United States, having died at age 119 years in 1999, two days short of living in three different centuries.
Butz-Stavin is making no promises as to how long she will coach field hockey at Emmaus High School, but at 68 years old and 46 years on the job, things are still going well.
Emmaus (13-0) beat East Stroudsburg North 12-0 in an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference game Tuesday night at Memorial Field. The win is the 1,000th in the career of the coach who became the winningest coach in the history of high school field hockey six years ago when she reached 840.
Like most opponents, East Stroudsburg North (1-8) put up a valiant fight, but was no match for the Green Hornets who have won 29 straight since winning Butz-Stavin’s state record 13th state title last fall.
If anything, Butz-Stavin is gaining momentum as she approaches her great-grandmother’s record. Emmaus has a 166-3 record since 2015, running Butz-Stavin’s career mark to 1,000-82-35 with 38 District 11 championships, the last 32 in a row.
“Years go by, wins go by,” Butz-Stavin said before the game. “People are excited about the 1,000 wins today. I look at it as another game. It’s a proud moment to be able to share this with the team of 2021. They’re making history, too, being a part of it. We haven’t talked about it all season as a group.
“We’re not going to look too far ahead because bad things can happen. It’s kind of mind-boggling, a little bit, the numbers that we’ve put up. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community, the administration, the athletic department, players, parents, friends. And especially my family.
“And from heaven above, I know my mom and dad are looking down.”
The Emmaus athletic department went all-out to celebrate the occasion, bringing back former players and those who had a hand in setting the record. Four of the five Emmaus athletic directors to whom Butz-Stavin has reported were present.
Ava Zerfass scored three goals as Emmaus took a 4-0 lead in the first quarter. The Hornets stretched it to 6-0 at halftime on goals from Rachel Herbine and Lexi Kociban. Herbine scored two more in the second half.
Emmaus goalkeeper Emma Cari did not have to make a save.
Emmaus will get right back at it with a late addition to its schedule, a second game against Easton, at home Wednesday.
While Butz-Stavin predictably attempted to downplay the milestone, few others did not. Teachers in school encouraged everyone to show up Tuesday night (and many did). The Emmaus athletic office planned a fitting post-game ceremony.
Senior midfielder Brooke Mancini said that the milestone was a topic of discussion for the players.
“It’s been a discussion everywhere,” she said. “Everyone’s talking about it. I’m so thankful I can be a part of this team. It’s such a great accomplishment for [Butz-Stavin]. It’s just insane. The coaching staff is amazing. I am so happy to be a part of this.”
Butz-Stavin took the job after Ginny Huber’s resignation in the fall of 1976 after spending a year in Australia after graduating from West Chester. One of her professors at West Chester was Vonnie Gros, the Golden Rams legend who once coached the U.S. Olympic team.
Since winning her first state title in 1992, Butz-Stavin has not gone more than three years without at least coaching in a state championship game.
Butz-Stavin said that she remembers gaining a love of sports from her father, including golf, which she still plays regularly. Field hockey stuck because it appeals to many things that she likes about sports.
“Field hockey is a very intelligent game,” she said. “You have to have very good hand-eye coordination. The athleticism of endurance, speed. You need to be quick and have agility. You have to have a field hockey IQ to understand the game. It’s a fun game. … I’ve always been involved in sports. I enjoy competition.”
Everyone always asks Butz-Stavin for how long she will coach. She has coached several mother-daughter combinations and is approaching a possible grandmother-mother-daughter trifecta.
“If you’re healthy and you’re mentally well and you still get support from administration, you never know,” she said. “We only have a year-to-year contract. You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve stepped on some toes over the years.”
Is her great-grandmother’s record in jeopardy? Ask her in 50 years.
“I’m here for the girls. I will always support the girls. We will stand up for our program. As long as I stay healthy, and my husband stays healthy, and I can continue to do this, I’ll be here. But things can change in a flash. I always adapt to whatever is thrown my way as best I can.”