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One Sports Family, Three Coaches - The Legendary Dodds Brothers

Aug 29, 2022 12:59PM ● By Wren Wahrenberger. Photography By Lars Blackmore.

The Dodds Brothers: John, Dick, and Tom.

Hanover High is well-known across New Hampshire for its successful hockey and ski jumping programs. The odds are in their favor any given year to make it to the State Finals, and even for this smallest of Division I schools, to take home a State Championship. The common denominator for these powerhouse teams in recent memory is a Dodds brother as head coach.

Youngest brother (and manager of the Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover) Dick Dodds credits his parents for the three brothers’ dedication to the Hanover sports community. “Both of them were extremely active, and as a family, we were active together,” Dick says. “It was a tremendous childhood. On a typical weekend day, we would all play youth hockey in the morning, and then load up and spend the afternoon skiing. In the summertime, we’d play baseball, and we played golf once or twice a week as a family. My parents were great role models.” Middle brother Tom says they all tried just about every sport when they were younger, but Dick and his brother John went on to focus on hockey in high school, while Tom was a high school and college Nordic combined (cross-country and ski jumping) skier, and all three later returned to Hanover High as coaches.


The 2022–2023 season will be the 40th that Dick Dodds has coached the Hanover High boys’ hockey team. When people praise him for ranking first of all-time in New Hampshire high school hockey team wins, he jokes that it’s only because he’s been around the longest. The Bears have won six D-I Championships with Dick at the helm, and he has been voted Coach of the Year eight times. In 2021, he was awarded the prestigious John Mariucci Award for secondary school coaching. “Of course I’m proud of it all,” he says, “but that’s not at all on my radar when I start a new season.”

Dick’s first goal each year for his team is “to create a positive culture of inclusion.” He notes that for many athletes, high school is the first time they will experience a potential four-year age gap between players. “It’s important that everybody feels comfortable,” he says. He wants “every player to be able to stand up on the last day of the season, look each of the other players in the eye, and say ‘Thanks. You are the greatest teammate possible.’”

Respect for one another and respect for the officials are priorities. Dick works to forge a team identity. He says, “Every year it’s a little different. The players will each talk about the best traits of the sports teams they have been on—what made that experience good. We then create a roadmap to follow with that information as the season progresses. For example, how we want to be remembered—on and off the ice.”

Dick’s coaching philosophy is “improvement every day” or IED. He says to the players, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a day we aren’t meeting as a team, do something that makes you a better person, a better community member, or a better family member each day.” When on the ice, Dick tells them, “Enter the game a gentleman and leave it the same way.” He cultivates an awareness in his players that they represent their hockey family in everything they do. Dick has had the great joy of coaching his actual family as well. His sons Trevor, Patrick, and Alex, as well as his nephew Cody, have all played on his teams, and Alex is currently serving as an assistant coach.

The hockey season can be demanding in a lot of ways, both physically and mentally. One of the toughest things for teenagers to adjust to is a practice that starts at 5:45am. Dick says that he tries to “romanticize it, telling the kids that they are the only team that is up at this time.”

Other challenges include dealing with questionable referee calls. One of Dick’s proudest memories as a coach was also one of the most difficult. It was a State Championship game in Manchester and Hanover was top seeded to win. They were in overtime, and their goalie blocked a shot from the other team, only to have the puck slide a little behind him. The officials then called the goal and game for the other team, but after they all shook hands and left the ice, the Channel 9 News team showed Dick video footage that proved that the puck had never gone over the goal line. The officials said it was too late to change the game outcome. Dick was overwhelmed by emotion; he felt he had let his team down, and it took the words of 18-year-old Captain Jamie Kerrigan to settle him down. Jamie said, “The legacy of our team is really going to depend on how we react to this.” The young man was focused not on the loss, but on preventing something like this from ever happening again. Jamie went on to write a letter to the NHIAA with suggestions for electronic goal judges and extra referees for these games, which they implemented the next year, and Dick couldn’t have been prouder.


Not to be outdone by the boys’ team, the Hanover girls have won 12 State Championships with oldest brother John Dodds at the helm, including the 2021–2022 season. John began coaching Hanover youth hockey in 1994, and after multiple state youth tournament wins, he joined the high school girls’ team coaching staff in 2003 and took over as head coach in 2006. Notably, girls’ teams were first able to compete for a state title starting in 2008, and since then, when they haven’t won, the Hanover girls have played in the quarter or semifinals.

Like his brother Dick, John has been inducted into the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame, and John was also the 2014–2015 Coach of the Year. Both brothers have seen their players go on to play D-1 college hockey, including Mattie Hartman at Northeastern, and Mark Turco and Dan Peraza, who both went on to play at Yale. 
However, John also treasures memories of the players who improved the most. One such player, Pepper Joseph (2020) had never played hockey when she contacted him freshmen year about trying out for the team. “We had never taken a player that was so inexperienced,” John says, “but I was impressed with her positive attitude and athleticism. We decided to take a chance with her, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made! Pepper just loved hockey. If we had a 5:30am practice, she was on the ice just after I opened the rink at 5am, using the extra time to work on her skating and skill development.” Although Pepper rarely played in a game her first year, “she improved quickly and her work ethic was a great example for her teammates.” She and her line mates cheered on the other players. They brought “a loud and positive energy to our bench. It made a difference to all of our players.”

By her senior year, Pepper earned “a regular shift” during games. “She was fast and tenacious. Her competitive spirit compensated for her lack of experience. As a coach, Pepper’s success and love for the game made me proud. I think stories like Pepper’s are one reason I continue to coach.” Recently, Pepper emailed John saying she just wanted to let him know how much she missed
playing hockey for Hanover.

John says that the success record of his teams over the years comes from a number of factors. “First the girls are expected to have fun,” he says. “We work hard to have efficient, challenging practices, but having fun is important too. We have been fortunate to have very dedicated players who have helped build a team culture that is open, welcoming, and friendly. Our teams are usually very close and feel like a family.” John also credits his assistant coaches for being great role models who connect with the players.

John says the second ingredient to success is that their “team identity is built around strong work habits and competitive play. The girls are challenged with skill development and pushed to compete in a practice as if it were an important game. It accelerates improvement both individually and collectively.”

Finally, he says, “we try to play the toughest schedule possible. We play some of the best teams in New England every winter, and we embrace the adversity that comes with these games. We aren’t afraid to lose. It is one way to grow.”
John tells his teams at the beginning of each season that his goal for each of them is that they become better people. A current high scorer, junior Maeve Lee praises her coach for being very supportive of everyone on the team. She says, “He works hard to help bring up the level of play for the least experienced players, and he doesn’t just focus on the best players.”


Tom Dodds, who unlike his brothers picked snow over ice, says one of his areas of focus as a coach is on his athletes’ emotional growth, which, for the challenging sport of ski jumping, includes confronting the fears and anxiety “associated with sitting on the start bar at the top of the hill.”

“As jumpers advance, they take on progressively bigger hills,” Tom
explains. “The coach is there halfway down the hill, but that first jump on a bigger hill can feel very lonely. One of the beauties of coaching ski jumping is helping them deal with that fear. These strategies become applicable in other aspects of their lives as well.”
Tom encourages his athletes to understand how fear manifests in their bodies, which can provide “a unique window into their mindsets.” He lets them know that fear is okay and normal, and that they can work through it. “I worry if they don’t have those emotions. The people who say they aren’t afraid may actually be hiding something that will impede their performance,” Tom says. “I also enjoy helping the kids cope with the stress of competition.” Without strategies to cope with the stress of performance, he notes that “some athletes never quite execute in competition as well as they do at practices.” As a retired DHMC anesthesiology chair, Tom has valuable experience in the stress response of the human body. He teaches some athletes breathing exercises to help them deal with the increased adrenaline.

One thing that Tom has found gratifying over the years is working with dedicated athletes who stay late after practice to improve their skills, or who came in their free time to help him work on the hills, shoveling, packing, and raking snow. Two standouts over the years were Mason Winter (2016–2019) and Sam Shapiro (2009–2012).
“I have vivid memories of Sam aspiring to jump a bigger jump than is typical for the high school circuit, so I took him over to the 50-meter jump in Lebanon,” Tom says. “Unfortunately, the conditions at the top of the hill were not safe, but Sam was not going to be denied. He and I put in several hours of work, and, ultimately, we both got the treat of flying that hill!”

Tom directed and coached the Ford Sayre ski jumping program for nine years before serving as a coach for the Hanover High ski jumping team so far for 12 seasons, during which time they have won the championship five times and been runners up another five times. He was inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame in 2021. Some of his athletes have gone on to compete for the East at the Junior Nationals, and Tom’s son Cooper Dodds was also a US Junior World team member.

For the past two years, Cooper has joined Tom as an assistant coach for the team, which Tom says is “a partnership that works really well.” He credits Cooper with “doing a great job connecting with young athletes and helping them understand the feeling of flying.”

The brothers all feel that family is the most important part of their lives. Dick says that “family is so helpful in developing who we are.” He also credits the town of Hanover. “It’s fairly unique that all three of us came back after college to stay in Hanover,” he says. “It speaks volumes about our community and our family and what a great place it is to raise kids and a great place to grow up.”

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