IRFH Emma Ruley.jpg (copy)

Emma Ruley takes possession during an Indian River field hockey match against Polytech in October 2020. After successfully rebuilding the IRHS team, coach Jodi Stone has decided to retire.

It’s been a school-record-breaking ride over the past nine seasons for Jodi Stone as head coach of the Indian River High School field hockey program. After all the years leading the Indians, and rebuilding a program that was at the bottom of the Henlopen Athletic Conference South Division and barely scored any goals — let alone won games — Stone has decided that the time was right to walk away, and has retired from the program to spend more time with her family.

“It was a difficult decision, for sure,” Stone said. “I don’t want to blame it on COVID, but COVID really allowed us, as a family, to re-evaluate things. I have one son in college,” she said of her son Ryan, “and another that wants to play lacrosse in college,” she added of her son Reece. “He’ll be a senior next year. We had a family meeting and came to the conclusion that it was best for our family for me to retire.

“My husband and I want to be able to go on the college visits with Reece next year. I want to be able to take a long weekend to visit my son down at UNC-Wilmington in the fall when the weather is still nice.

“As a coach, I hold my players accountable for being at practices and games on time and every day. I have to be the example for that as well. I wanted to be able to do these things with my family, and I wouldn’t be able to be that example for my players.”

Stone took over the IR program for the 2012 season after serving as an assistant for the season prior. She was the head coach at Selbyville Middle School for two seasons before heading up to the high school.

Over the course of those nine years leading the IR program, Stone’s teams won a school-record 62 games, including an impressive 16-2 overall mark in the 2019 season that ended with a berth in the DIAA Division II state championship game against perennial power Delmar. The Indians were the only team to score on Delmar that whole season.

After taking over the program and establishing the groundwork for success, the Indians needed just three seasons before finishing with a winning record, in 2016 at 10-6, including the program’s first ever state playoff berth. Since that time, Stone and the Indians have gone 52-25-4, with five straight seasons of DIAA state playoff appearances.

All that success certainly came at a price, and missing out on family time, late nights preparing for practices, and keeping with the offseason program really made it all seem like a full-time job.

“It often gets overlooked how much time is spent off the field, away from games and practices, how much coaches spend on their teams,” Stone continued. “I’ve been fortunate to have some very good assistant coaches with me over the years. They each brought something extra to the program. We brought in Molly [Chamberlain], and she was able to help us incorporate some soccer aspects into the program. I picked the brain of [head soccer coach Steve] Kilby when I first took over the program, to get a feel for how things were done at IR. I was not a local. I was from Maryland, so I was not familiar with how things were here.”

And Stone’s been fortunate to have some pretty incredible student-athletes who bought into what she was trying to accomplish all these years.

“I have had some special players over the years,” Stone concluded. “They really bought into the program. They really helped to change the reputation of the program. We were no longer an easy win for teams. We had to be taken seriously. I’m proud of what we’ve built here.”

The search for a new coach is currently under way, with the position having been posted. With what has been built in the IR program, it’s likely there will be plenty of applicants looking to take over an established and strong program.

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Kylie, 17, and Grace, 12. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that builds.