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Talented faculty step up to head coaching roles

August 17, 2023

Five Cheshire Academy faculty members have taken on new head coaching roles for many of CA’s varsity athletics programs.

These individuals — some new and many returning to CA — bring with them a wide range of coaching and playing experience both in the independent school and collegiate realms. Their talents and skill sets are sure to be a benefit and will grow the varsity programs and CA’s Athletics Department.

Stepping into the role of varsity girls’ basketball head coach is Rebecca Brooks, CA’s director of admission. Brooks has a long history of playing and coaching girls’ basketball, most recently as head coach of Brewster Academy’s girls’ basketball program. In 2022, she was named the NEPSC Class C Coach of the Year and led the Brewster girls’ team to become the New England Class C Champions. For 15 years prior, Brooks held various roles at Pomfret School, including head coach of the girls’ basketball program.

In addition to her tenure at independent schools, Brooks coached track and field, soccer, and basketball at Tufts University, and played semi-professional basketball for both the Springfield Spirit (Springfield, Massachusetts) and Club G.S. Carriat (Bourg-en-Bresse, France).

Kayla Padroff, class of 2014, is Cheshire Academy’s new senior woman administrator (SWA), as well as head coach of the varsity volleyball and softball programs. As the SWA, Padroff will support, advocate for, and listen to our student-athletes, and play an integral role in enhancing CA’s athletics program. Padroff is no stranger to working at independent schools; she previously worked as director of student activities and in admissions, served as head coach of varsity softball and volleyball programs, and was a competitive student-athlete during her time at CA. As head coach of softball at The Loomis Chaffee School, Padroff led the team to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

“It’s thrilling to welcome Kayla back to the Cheshire Academy community,” Athletic Director Jim McCarthy said. “She was a standout volleyball and softball player during her time at CA and brings an impressive independent school background to her coaching and other roles on campus. Kayla will be a great asset to our students and a wonderful addition to the Athletic Department.”

Husam Shabazz will lead the varsity boys’ lacrosse team next spring. Shabazz, who is an assistant director of admission, boasts an impressive coaching resume. He previously served as defensive coordinator for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s varsity boys’ lacrosse program, a team which finished last season as an undefeated conference champion, allowed less than 10 goals per game in conference, and ranked 10th in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. He was also a coach for DC Express Lacrosse Club, where he was an assistant coach for the 2024 Black team and head coach for the 2025 Orange team. Shabazz also competed as a member of Widener University men’s lacrosse program (2015-2018) and graduated in 2019 with a dual major in political science and international relations.

Alumna Kelsey Darcy, class of 2019, has returned to Cheshire Academy to serve as head coach of the varsity girls’ lacrosse program. Darcy, who is also an intern in the Admission Office, replaces Sarah Lasoff-Hodge, associate director of college counseling, who stepped up to the role for the 2023 spring season. Darcy served as assistant coach under Lasoff-Hodge’s tutelage. Darcy grew up playing lacrosse, starting at the young age of 6. She joined CA in 2018, playing on the girls’ team that year and in 2019 as a starter. With her help, the team made it to the Class B invitational tournament. Darcy continued her career at Springfield College, where she was a starter, and at Quinnipiac University, where she was voted captain and president of the club team. She also has extensive experience coaching travel teams, and is currently the head coach of Team CT, a competitive girls’ lacrosse club based in New Haven County.

Ellie De Leon has stepped up to the head coach role of CA’s varsity track and field program. De Leon, who teaches science, was previously an assistant coach, and currently serves as head coach of the coed cross country program. De Leon has been coaching cross country and track and field for six years at the middle and high school levels for both girls, boys, and coed squads, including at Mercersburg Academy and The Barnesville School. She recently became USA Track & Field Level I certified, has taken the USATF cross country specialist course, and is a member of the USATF. De Leon is also an accomplished athlete herself; she ran for 12 seasons on varsity cross country, indoor, and outdoor track teams at Mount Holyoke College, received the Mount Holyoke 12-Season Award, was a three-year captain, a 2015 NEWMAC Runner of the Week, and 2014 NEWMAC Fall Academic All-Conference. De Leon also competed throughout high school, earning a spot in states for the 4×400 meter relay.

“The roster of new and returning coaches for the 20223-2024 school year is stellar,” McCarthy said. “As experienced, accomplished leaders, mentors, and athletes, each will bring valuable perspectives, skills, and game smarts to their teams. They have a strong desire to guide, teach, and grow student-athletes, and to help young people learn about themselves, their respective sports, and reach their potential. They are great fits for CA and our mission.”

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