Sports Person of the Week
Cunningham Aiming to Lead Guilford to Another Great Campaign
Madden Cunningham played a key role in the Guilford field hockey team’s dream season in 2019. Now a senior captain, Madden wants Guilford to experience more success in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Madden Cunningham )
One year after helping the Guilford field hockey team enjoy a storybook season, senior Madden Cunningham has great expectations for her club in 2020. Guilford went 23-0 on its way to winning SCC and state titles last year, and Madden is looking to lead the team to continued success as a captain this fall.
Madden has been playing field hockey since she was in 6th grade. She got her start in the sport through a field hockey camp that was offered through the Guilford Parks and Recreation Department.
“I was instantly hooked, and it was my first official team at Adams Middle School,” says Madden. “It’s a really fun, fast-paced sport, and I’ve been playing ever since.”
Madden recorded four goals with one assist while patrolling the midfielder position for Guilford last season. Head Coach Kitty Palmer describes Madden as a selfless player who contributes in a variety of ways for her squad.
“Madden does the little things that all good teams need to have. She tips in corner shots, she marks the best opponent, and she plays solid defense,” Palmer says. “Madden will be a good leader this season, because she is unselfish and she works hard.”
Madden’s goals for the 2020 season are to be the best field hockey player that she can be, while helping Guilford notch as many victories as possible. Although the CIAC won’t be holding its traditional postseason tournaments, Madden knows that she and her dedicated teammates will do whatever it takes to have another memorable year.
“Every player loves their teammates, but there is something special about the field hockey team. We have such a tight-knit group of girls on the team. We are super close, and we always look out for each other,” Madden says. “Everyone contributes their absolute best every season, every practice, and every game. It’s really an amazing team effort.”
Guilford experienced a ton of notable moments throughout its perfect 2019 season. The biggest moment for Madden came when Guilford claimed its second-straight title by posting a 3-2 win over rival Hand in the Class M State Tournament final.
“One of my favorite moments from last season was when we won the state championship against Hand,” says Madden. “It was a very close game, but when the final buzzer signaled the game was over, we all turned, looked at each other, and saw the proud look on Kitty’s face. All of our hard work had paid off. It was an incredibly emotional and satisfying moment. I will never forget it.”
Guilford has won 31 games in a row going back to the 2018 season and, despite graduating 13 seniors from last year, the team is still primed for another strong showing in 2020. While the upcoming campaign will feature fewer regular-season games and different playoff format, Madden says that everyone is trying to embrace the change.
“This is not a typical year as a student and as a player,” Madden says. “There’s been so much unknown over the past seven months. We have been working really hard to stay safe during the pandemic. We are working out and practicing in cohorts. I am very careful, even when I am not around teammates, to follow the COVID guidelines as carefully as possible.”
Madden wants to make sure that every member of Guilford’s roster follows those guidelines, so that the season goes off as planned. The field hockey season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Oct. 1.
“None of us want to put the team in jeopardy, and some teams have not been as fortunate as us,” says Madden. “For now, we are just going to enjoy our time as a team game after game and stay positive for each other and the coaches.”
Off the field, Madden is a member of the Interact Club, the Youth Advisory Group, and the Pep Rally Committee at Guilford High School, where she is an honor roll student. She also enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and her dog Hazel.
On the field, Madden works hard to improve her skills by practicing in her free time and seeking advice from her coaches.
“Every year, I try to improve my game by practicing before preseason begins. There is always room to improve my stick and defending skills,” Madden says. “Before every game, I think of ways I can improve my skills individually and, most importantly, as a team.”
Above all, Madden appreciates that she has such a great relationship with Coach Palmer. Madden says that Palmer is a huge influence on her as both a player and a person.
“Kitty is an incredible coach. Fortunately for us, she takes her role as coach very seriously. She genuinely cares about all of us,” says Madden. “Kitty encourages me to be a better person as a player, as a student, and as a member of my community. As a player, I respect her constructive advice. I value her confidence in me, and she’s been the best coach for me and the team.”