New Canaan Old Timers Association Spotlight: Mary Beth McNichol


There have been many trailblazers throughout the course of New Canaan’s sports history. That being said, perhaps none have broken as much new ground as both a player and a coach as Mary Beth McNichol.

Mary Beth McNichol Pickering, known to most as “MB,” grew up in New Canaan and went through the public schools system, with the exception of her freshman year when she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich.

While at New Canaan High School, Pickering was a standout student-athlete in soccer (three years), basketball (three years), lacrosse (two years) and softball (one year). She received postseason accolades in many of these sports, ranging from All-FCIAC, All-State, and All-New England.

The NCHS Rams 1988 State Championship team. Credit: Facebook

The NCHS Rams 1988 State Championship team. Credit: Facebook

Pickering was a member of the 1986 girls varsity soccer team, which made the state tournament for the first time in program history, eventually reaching the quarterfinals. The following season the Rams were runners-up, before winning the state championship in 1988 with Pickering leading the way in her senior year.

After graduating NCHS in the Class of 1989, Pickering attended UCONN to play soccer for the Huskies. In doing so, she became the first New Canaan High School female athlete to receive an athletic scholarship.

During her collegiate soccer career, PIckering continued to thrive both on and off the soccer pitch. She helped the Lady Huskies to a 60-21-4 record, a Top Ten NCAA women’s soccer ranking from 1989-92 and the#1 ranking in New England during that same stretch. UCONN also reached the final 12 of the NCAA D-I tournament in 1989 and 1992 and the final eight in 1991. The Huskies were tournament runners-up in 1990.

Academically, Pickering was recognized as a University Scholar-Athlete from the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes (CPIA) in the fall of 1991 and 1992, and the spring of 1992 and 1993.

MB McNichol Pickering. Credit: Contributed

MB McNichol Pickering. Credit: Contributed

Pickering received multiple athletic awards at UCONN—even so, the ones she reflects on the most are the Pappanikous Unsung Hero Award and the Women in Sport Night’s Unsung Hero Award. These awards are reminders of the adversity she overcame while at UCONN. Pickering’s mother passed away during October of her freshman year in the midst of her being sidelined following the first of three reconstructive knee surgeries. These accolades define her and remind of her of the emotional and physical turmoil that she endured which ultimately shaped much of who she is today. The awards are constant reminders that she can get through any of the challenges life throws at her.

Upon graduating from UCONN, Pickering opted to stay in athletics and began her coaching career as the assistant women’s soccer coach at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. She also became a teacher at Saxe Middle School in New Canaan. After two years of collegiate coaching, Pickering was hired by former NCHS athletic director Vin Iovino as head coach of the Rams’ girls soccer program. She also served as an assistant in girls lacrosse and indoor track.

AS a coach, Pickering continued to blaze new trails, becoming the first female varsity soccer coach in the FCIAC, leading the Rams from 1995-2000, 2004 and 2007-2008. Her teams achieved tremendous success, winning a state Class M championship and FCIAC co-championship in 1997, conference runners-up in 2000 and 2004, and winning the state Class L championship in 2004.

While coaching and teaching in New Canaan, she received an M.A. in special education from Fairfield University.

While she’s proud of the accolades and numerous All-American, All-New England, All-State, and All-FCIAC players she’s coached, Pickering is most pleased with the NCHS girls soccer program and the tradition she developed while coaching, ultimately instilling life lessons for her former athletes that could extend well past the athletic fields.

Pickering lives in New Canaan with her husband, Fred Pickering, a recently-retired 28-year veteran of the New Canaan Police Department, and their three sons, Shane (14), Cory (12) and Mason (9).

Pickering owns Garage Fitness, LLC, a personal training business, and ABC’s & 123’s of Soccer, LLC, a company that facilitates soccer and baseball coaches for after-school programs at nursery schools.

The New Canaan Old Timers celebration runs from 10am to 3pm at Waveny Castle on Sunday September 20th, and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. The cost is $50 for adults, $20 for students. Proceeds from the event go toward the Vin Iovino Scholarship, named for the former NCHS athletic director and presented to selected senior athletes at the annual sports picnic and award ceremony held at the end of every school year.

Checks can be made out to New Canaan Old Timers and sent to P.O. Box 1642, New Canaan, CT 06840.

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