SAUGUS — In reality, Elizabeth Marchese has two teenage boys, one in college and the other a junior at Saugus High who is vying to be the goalie on the hockey team.
However, Marchese considers all the kids in Saugus hers, in some manner. If you’re running a benefit for a sports program — any program — make sure Liz Marchese is on board. Because if she is, she’ll take it on and make sure it succeeds.
For her endless enthusiasm for the athletes of Saugus, and her relentless advocacy for them, the Item names Elizabeth Marchese the town’s Person of the Year.
Oddly enough, Marchese, who is also on the school committee, is not a lifer. She grew up in Malden, played girls basketball and softball for the Golden Tornados, and was good enough at the latter that Regis College offered her a scholarship.
“I turned it down,” she said. “At that point, I was really burned out, and I wanted to keep sports as something I enjoyed, not something that was work.”
She always enjoyed sports. She was the first girl to play for Malden Little League, making the majors at the age of 10.
She first got to Saugus in 2003, the same year the Saugus American Little League team made the World Series. Her oldest son was 5, wanted to play T-ball, and the league was looking for coaches.
“I signed him up and they put me on a team with Frank Dascoli, and we ended up coaching together.
“Now,” she said, “we’re like family. We just moved all the way up the ladder as coaches. None of the kids ever had a problem with a female coach.”
In Marchese’s case, that mean assuming the presidency of the league in 2010 and 2011. She also became president of the Saugus Pop Warner football program at the same time. Over the years, she has developed one basic philosophy about coaching.
“It’s easy to coach a kid who is talented,” she says. “But to take kids who don’t really like baseball, or basketball, and watch them grow to love the game, that’s the biggest satisfaction you get from doing this.”
Marchese believes the boys and girls she coaches have responded well to her and her methods. Her Little League team was always the Rays, and she began a “Rays Boot Camp” so that kids could work out in the offseason.
“They loved it,” she said.
Although she is a lawyer, she doesn’t practice now, choosing instead to help run her brothers’ physical therapy business in Woburn. She has also worked within the Saugus Public Schools first as a paraprofessional and then as a counselor in special education and behavior. Part of her job was to handle in-house suspensions.
“I knew most of the kids from coaching them, and they respected me,” she said. “A lot of them were failing, and they all ended up passing and moving on.”
Her volunteerism, she said, is almost like coaching.
“I want to get the town involved in sports,” she said. “It’s a good thing.
“I would go to the wall and back for these kids.”