CONCORD – Lesli Laychak Rendall knows that when she played for Milford Area High School back in the early 1980s, it was “a different era.”
There was no Title IX, so there were fewer choices. The thought of not playing softball to play AAU basketball was unheard of. But whatever choice you made, you had fun.
“Oh I had a ball,” Laychak-Rendall said. “It was all because of the coaching. It’s just very, very different. There wasn’t as much competition. When I watch my kids, they play soccer and they see kids from different clubs and it’s ‘Get ’em, get ’em.’ They’re a rival.
“I didn’t feel that. Even though Merrimack was a rival, Nashua was a rival, it was more of a fun rivalry.”
Laychak-Rendall had those rivalries in three different sports – soccer, basketball and softball – and excelled in all of them for the Spartans. She’s gone on to teach and coach and when you tie all those things together, it’s Hall of Fame material. Thus last Sunday she was inducted into the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
She had a ball that day, too.
“It is super awesome, as you see different kids go through schools and to think I’m in with some of the greatest athletes (in the state) is pretty cool,” she said.
What Laychak-Rendall did at Milford was common – she played three sports. Today, that is rarely done.
“Kids don’t want to play three sports,” Laychak-Rendall said. “Or if they do, they don’t focus on the two sports they don’t think they’ll get a scholarship in.”
Currently a teacher at Souhegan High School, who often helps out the athletic department on game days, Laychak-Rendall did have to make a choice once she got to college. It turns out she made a pretty good one, scoring 1,552 points and hauling down 742 rebounds at Stonehill College. In fact, she’s in that school’s Hall of Fame as well.
“When I got to college, I was primarily a shooter,” she said. “And then an assistant coach pulled me aside and told me I shot too slow. I had to shoot a hundred times before I was allowed to move.”
She’s coached on the JV level (basketball) and varsity (softball), officiated, and basically done it all. She even wanted to play hockey before her parents said no.
“I coached the way I was coached,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of technique and kids had fun.”
But she also knew she had to do some teaching when she coached, and learned that from her college coach at Stonehill, Paula Sullivan.
Best moment of her high school playing career?
“I don’t know if I have any, they’ve been all so great,” she said. “And I got to travel. That’s a great opportunity.”
In fact, she played semi-pro basketball in England where she was one of the top scorers and rebounders and won a couple of championships. But she thinks today’s athletes are missing out on the fun of high school sports, that playing for your school should be a bigger deal than it is.
“I think it’s taking away from the high school athletics,” Laychak-Rendall said. “I’m not opposed to playing club, but when you play in five different clubs, it takes away from the high school.”
And who knows, if you excel at the high school level, you could be a Hall of Famer like Leslie Laychak-Rendall.