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Mom and Daughters Share the Love of Field Hockey

For Cathy Ward and her daughters, field hockey is a family affair.

Cathy, who is now a retired teacher in Edwardsville District 7, was a volunteer field hockey assistant at Edwardsville High School for several years until she obtained her teaching certificate from Illinois.

She began teaching in District 7 in 1992 and became the freshman coach as the program grew. She eventually became the junior varsity coach, working on the sidelines with Tigers head coach Sharon Petty until Petty’s retirement in 2006. Cathy continued as an assistant coach until 2012 and retired from teaching a year later.


Mary (Ward) Hughes, meanwhile, graduated from EHS in 1992 and currently teaches health at Liberty Middle School. She was a standout field hockey player for the Tigers and went on to play for four years at Missouri State University on a field hockey scholarship.

Kelly (Ward) Wesley, who is Mary’s younger sister, graduated from Edwardsville in 1994. She also played field hockey at EHS and received a scholarship offer to play at Kent State University, but went to nursing school instead. She is the nurse in charge of the emergency room at Christian Hospital in St. Louis.

“I started the field hockey program at the Edwardsville YMCA to feed into high school because the girls had never played field hockey until their freshman year,” Cathy said. “Kelly played for me two years in the Y program before I started high school, but Mary didn’t play for me.

“The high school girls coached the teams, so it was really fun. We did that program for four or five years, but they dropped it after I started teaching in high school. Now they have college field hockey, so that makes up for it.

Cathy, who is from Greensboro, North Carolina, attended Appalachian State University, which only had intramural sports for women. She played intramural field hockey her junior year. ASU started a field hockey program in its senior year, but it did not play because the team was using younger players.

Each week, the Edwardsville Intelligencer will publish a “Where Are They Now?” story of former Edwardsville High School or Metro-East Lutheran student-athletes. If there is a former student-athlete you would like to know, please email Scott Marion at smarion@edwpub.net.


“It was the first women’s sport at Appalachian State, and it was a few years before Title IX and right before they started a women’s basketball program,” Cathy said. “After that, I taught for five years at Morgantown Junior High in North Carolina, then my husband and I moved to Edwardsville in 1984.

“My kids got involved in field hockey here and I decided to get back into it. I was going to make gymnasts out of them, but they weren’t interested.

Mary’s introduction to field hockey didn’t happen until she arrived at EHS, but the sport has been a part of her life ever since.

“My mom wasn’t a coach when I graduated, but I was coached by Sharon Petty and didn’t play field hockey until my freshman year,” Mary said. “We didn’t have field hockey back then at the intermediate level.

“I got a teaching job in Edwardsville in 2000 and started the field hockey program in college. I coached for six years before I started having kids and I’m still involved in it, officiating college games with my mom.

Mary, with 15 goals and five assists, was No. 21 on the EHS career list when Petty retired in 2006.

Kelly, who also competed in basketball and track and field at EHS, was No. 10 on that list with 18 goals and 18 assists.

Both were named to MWAA (Missouri’s Women’s Athletic Association) Field Hockey All-Star Teams during their respective senior years.

For Kelly, one of the highlights of his field hockey career was competing in the Junior Olympics during his junior year at EHS and helping his team win gold.

“We went to Minnesota for the championship game and I was on the East Coast team,” Kelly said. “Everyone I played with in the St. Louis area was on the West Coast team because the Mississippi River was the dividing point.

“I all had new teammates, but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to play in the Olympics after that, but it didn’t happen.

Both sisters have fond memories of Petty, who started the program in 1974 before retiring in 2006 with a 282-220-4 record and six state tournament appearances, including the state championship in 1978 and second-place finishes in 1976, 1980, and 1981. The IHSA dropped field hockey as a varsity sport after the 1981 season, but Edwardsville continued to play teams from St. Louis.

“She was very positive and pointed you in the right direction,” said Mary, who also played softball at EHS.

“She was more of a life coach, and you could tell she cared about you and she cared about everyone,” Kelly added. “I don’t remember ever yelling at us. She made you feel good and made you feel like you could do anything.

Cathy, likewise, enjoyed her training time alongside Petty.

“She really believed in women’s athletics,” Cathy said. “She wanted all the girls to be equal to the guys and she fought for that. She impacted so many girls and she helped so many get scholarships.

One of those scholarships went to Mary, who had a strong college career in southwestern Missouri. Mary’s first teaching job dates back to 1998 in Clayton, where she coached varsity field hockey.

“The crazy thing is we played Sharon Petty’s (Edwardsville) team in my first year as a coach and we actually won,” Mary said. “In 2000, I had the opportunity to teach in Edwardsville and that’s when they wanted me to start the college field hockey program.”

Kelly’s most notable athletic achievement in Edwardsville outside of field hockey was in track and field, where she was part of a longtime school-record-holding team in the medley relay.

“Someone broke the record a few years ago, but my name was still on the board when my oldest daughters Courtney and Taylor were in high school,” Kelly said.

Kelly began taking nursing courses at Lewis and Clark Community College and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from SIUE.

She has been at Christian Hospital for 16 years, including 15 years in the emergency room.

“We’re the busiest ER in Missouri,” Kelly said.

For Mary, her job keeps her connected to field hockey.

“Once you start playing field hockey, you never want to stop, but it’s not like golf or tennis where you can keep playing as you get older,” Mary said. “I teach at Liberty and have been in the Edwardsville School District for 22 years, so I continue to train and play with the girls when I can.

“But it’s much harder on my body. I really feel a lot worse these days.

Cathy finds many ways to stay active in retirement, and field hockey also plays a role.

“I play pickleball three days a week for two hours and three days a week, I walk about five miles with a group,” Cathy said. “I play golf and I’m still a substitute teacher (in District 7) because teaching was a great job and I miss the kids.

“Officiating games at the intermediate level give me this connection to field hockey. I also launched the Sharon Petty Field Hockey Scholarship, which is a $500 scholarship given annually to a senior field hockey player whether or not they play in college. I always talk to the girls and get their applications and I always talk to the coaches.

Kelly has four daughters – Courtney Lybarger, 28; Taylor Lybarger, 26; Brooke Wesley, 20; and Allison Wesley, 16.

“Taylor played field hockey at EHS, but Courtney ran cross country,” Kelly said. “Brooke and Allison are both dancers and cheerleaders.”

Mary, meanwhile, has a 15-year-old daughter, Ellie Hughes, and a 14-year-old daughter, Grace Hughes.

“Ellie is a sophomore at EHS and she’s a cheerleader, while Grace is an eighth grade at Liberty and plays club football for Scott Gallagher,” Mary said. “I can’t get either of them to play field hockey.”

Beyond their passion for field hockey, Cathy and her daughters remain close, all still living in Edwardsville.

“My sister, my mother and I are about a mile apart and almost all of our family is within five miles,” Mary said. “I can’t imagine either of us walking away from each other.”

“We’re so grateful for the experience we’ve had here in Edwardsville, and it couldn’t have been better,” Kelly added.