His voice isn’t quite as loud as the PA system that echoes throughout campus on gamedays, but anyone who watched a UConn Field Hockey game at Sherman Family Field has heard associate head coach Paul Caddy.
The lieutenant to head coach Nancy Stevens is loud but not assertive, and his exclamations only serve as a way to convey the information and knowledge that for 18 seasons has helped propel the Huskies to great achievements.
Caddy heads up the Huskies’ defensive unit and player development programs, where he has cultivated multiple All-Americans and Big East Defensive Players of the Year. He is also an ace strategist, and his ability to foster tactical improvement has benefited the Huskies for years.
He made multiple stops around New England, including initially as a volunteer assistant at UMass. That followed being an assistant at Quinnipiac, where he earned a master’s degree in journalism but really learned that he would rather be a coach than a reporter. That lead to a higher profile gig at Ohio State, which preceded his arrival in Storrs. In his time with the Buckeyes, he worked summer camps at UConn, cultivating an initial relationship with Stevens. The fact that the best man in Caddy’s wedding was a GA at UConn didn’t hurt, and so he had an inside track in being picked for the job when it opened up in 2001.
He and Stevens have grown a synergy that now complete each other.
“It’s a real collaboration,” Caddy said. “It’s like having a sibling. You know what each other are going to say. We can finish each other’s sentences. I know what she’s thinking, and she knows what I’m thinking. We do challenge each other on tactical stuff and recruiting stuff, but it is so that we get things right.”
The first few years he ran the defense while learning how to run a program and progressing into coaching the full game. He credits Stevens for giving him the trust and responsibility that allowed him to develop, but she knows he’s earned it.
“Paul does a great job, he does a lot of the tactical development of our team and he’s one of the best in the country at it,” Stevens said.
He also does a good deal of their recruiting, especially internationally, which has been consistently lucrative for the Huskies. Caddy is in charging of assessing the wits and technique, but it is with Stevens’ evaluation of the athleticism and psychology that allows them to find the complete players with which they build their rosters.
Rising senior defender Antonia Tiedtke is an example of top-level player he both recruited and helped grow. Coming from Frankfurt, Germany, she committed to UConn sight unseen, persuaded by a series of Skype conversations about the program and her prospective fit in it. Now she is a team captain and All Big East.
“I didn’t come here as a defender, but he really knows what he is doing. I never really learned at home how to defend. I was just doing it,” Tiedtke said. “But the way he shows us, it all makes sense and it is really helpful.”
Currently, the team is in its more informal spring season where the players have individual sessions with Caddy. Tiedtke believes the learning in those grow the defensive unit’s skill immensely.
“He really makes you a better player,” Tiedtke said. “You come in thinking that you’re good because you’re going to a good program but then you improve so much and he plays a huge role in how everyone get’s better year-by-year.”
It is hard to point to a particular moment or adjustment of impact because it is happening all the time.
“We will start out playing a certain way, but then during halftime or a timeout he will be like ‘this is not working’ or ‘let’s try this’ and explain the tactics to us,” Tiedtke said. “It usually works out well.”
Indeed, it has. Caddy has helped coach three national championship teams, including 2017. That team was headlined by multiple time All-American and NCAA Tournament MVP Charlotte Veitner, who Caddy recruited.
Coaching the Huskies is intense, but Tiedtke says Caddy knows when to pick his spots. They both pointed with pride to the fact that UConn has an open-door policy for players and coaches. That doesn’t happen without the right attitudes and culture. He works with his players to grow in and away from the game.
The main focus is getting the team better on the field, but a little team building doesn’t hurt anybody.
Caddy will concede that he is not the tallest fellow. So, at a formal postseason team banquet, a remark about how he could use some heels of his own led to a bet with high stakes, literally: Win a national championship and he would don a pair of the stature-giving footwear. The team delivered, and Caddy paraded around their quarters and team room in stilettoed and flowery heels. That is just the type of person is he and emblematic of the convivial culture he seeks in the program.
Things like that are important for the family environment the program wants to have. They take a lot of pride in that and in representing each other for UConn.
A native of Wales, Caddy now is happy to have settled a family in Mansfield. He has also served as a coach and talent evaluator of U.S. National teams. He has a passion for the game and for coaching, but he loves doing it at UConn.
“I do want to be a head coach someday, but I want to do it at UConn. I want to follow in Nancy’s footsteps. When it comes time for her to retire, whenever that may be, I want to be that next person,” Caddy said. “UConn is in my blood. I love it. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else.”
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.