DARIEN — For the last eight years, Ciara Thurlow has coached for Darien Youth Lacrosse.

“We’re the second-biggest youth lacrosse program in the country,” Thurlow said. “We have over 1,300 kids that participate.”

Thurlow, a 47-year-old Darien resident, was recently named head coach for Greens Farms Academy’s varsity girls lacrosse team. Despite the new job, she will continue to coach for the youth lacrosse program.

“I think they have the best town program in the country,” she said. “They really build and develop as many players as they can.”

Thurlow’s love for lacrosse can be traced back to her youth, when she started playing in eighth grade and later at the collegiate level for Villanova University.

“I love just being a part of a team with other women,” Thurlow said. “Having been in team sports, I realized the traits and characteristics I learned playing sports were the characteristics that made me successful in all other areas in my life.”

Through playing sports, she learned resilience, work ethic and diligence — qualities she transferred into her career as an adult. Becoming a coach gave her the opportunity to give back to young girls by teaching them these lessons, she said.

“Hopefully I empower young ladies and get them inspired and learn these traits you get from sports,” she said. “That’s what really inspires me as a coach.”

After playing for Villanova, she moved to New York City to start her career in sales. When she moved to Connecticut, a former Villanova teammate was looking for someone to co-coach at Wilton.

“I was just going to do it quickly while I was looking for another job,” Thurlow said. “I ended up loving it so much I never looked back.”

Together with Cindy Wiseman, she went on to turn Wilton High School’s lacrosse program into one of the most competitive in the state. However, the first thing she had to learn was how to work with young girls.

“I came from a sales job, where it was me and all men,” she said. “I was one of eight sales people and I was the one woman.”

Though the nuances of the sport may have changed while she began her adult life, Thurlow’s previous experience as an athlete helped her to get acclimated quickly.

“If you’re an athlete, the rhetoric is always the same,” she said.

Her youthful energy helped her communicate with teenagers who are living in a much different world than she did growing up.

“There’s a special art form to being able to relate to young girls,” Thurlow said. “At the time, I was dealing with adult males. Now, I’m dealing with young girls and I need to be able to relate to their world.”

Having to be responsible for an entire team and figuring out the idiosyncrasies of team chemistry was one of the major roles of her job, she said. To understand how to make the team work together she also needed to understand each individual girl she coached.

“As a coach, one of the most important things for me to do is to find what triggers a girl to work harder or overcome fears,” she said. “Everyone has fears that holds them back. That’s my job to figure out what inspires them.”

As the new head coach for Greens Farms Academy’s varsity girls lacrosse team, Thurlow has several goals. With associate head coach Halley Griggs she will work to grow the energy and enthusiasm level around girls lacrosse. She also hopes to change the brand perception.

“We want to work hard in changing the brand of GFA in that it’s going to be a viable program,” she said. “We’re going to raise the competitive level. We’re going to raise the bar on what we expect.”

dj.simmons@hearstmedia

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