Sue Benfield admits she always had an all-star lineup of mentors, namely family, friends, teammates and coaches.Her mother and father supported every one of her academic and athletic endeavors; older brother Rick and his buddies embraced her when playing pick-up in every imaginable sport around the neighborhood; teammates throughout her field hockey, basketball and softball careers helped her become one of the very best athletes ever at Boyertown High School and then West Chester State Teachers College; and coaches — from the legendary Marcella Wise and visionary Carol Eckman to the world renown Vonnie Gros — instilled in her an unwavering work ethic and a fever to compete.“I was very fortunate … lucky,” Benfield said.So were two generations of Boyertown athletes who played for Benfield, who stepped down earlier this year after 41 years as the Bears’ softball coach.Never comfortable in the limelight, usually redirecting all praise and applause throughout her career to her assistants and players, Benfield impacted so many student-athletes’ lives from the moment she returned to her alma mater to teach and coach in the fall of 1971.And because of her passion for the game — and for all who played it — no one was at all surprised to see her on the bench spring after spring after spring as they were when hearing she resigned.Rightfully so.“There were several times I debated (resigning),” said Benfield, who finished with an incredible 560-227 career won-loss mark. “I was once told how nice it would be to leave when you still love it, and that meant with teaching, too. When you think about it, there aren’t a lot of people who can do that.“So it was a hard decision to make. I had totally mixed feelings about it. But I left with such good memories. It’s still difficult at times. Hopefully I’ll get out to watch a few games this spring. That would be nice.”Sue Benfield was part of a very unique group of student-athletes at Boyertown — she played field hockey, basketball and softball for three years for the Bears and never, not once, lost a game. She was an integral part of those nine Ches-Mont League championship teams.Little changed after she arrived at West Chester, where she played the same three sports for three years. And while she was a big part of the success of the field hockey and softball teams, those roles paled in comparison to her contributions to the Golden Rams’ basketball program.Benfield helped West Chester to the very first national championship in women’s college basketball in 1969 and then back-to-back runner-up finishes in the then newly-formed AIAW National Tournament — the precursor to today’s NCAA National Championships.“(Basketball) at the time was my favorite sport, I loved it,” Benfield said. “It was probably my best sport, too.”As a sophomore, she helped West Chester defeat Western Carolina, 65-39, for the national title and cap an unbeaten 12-0 season. As a junior, she helped her team top four rivals in regional qualifying, then literally trashed three more before falling to Cal-State Fullerton, 50-46, in the final. And as a senior, another sweep of the regional qualifier and three more wins – 73-27 over Louisville, 72-44 over Indiana, and 77-48 over Southern Connecticut — advanced Benfield and the Golden Rams into the national final again, where they lost to Immaculata, 53-48.Benfield was selected to the all-tournament team all three years, was named an AAU All-American, and even got an invite to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.But geography and timing weren’t in her favor. It was, after all, time to get a job.“I always knew I wanted to coach,” Benfield explained. “When I was in college, Marcella Wise, my high school coach, got in touch with me and asked me if I would like to coach. She said she would get me a job teaching (at Boyertown), too.”Benfield got what many would’ve said was more than she bargained for.She got a job all right, teaching fitness and health … and also got the head coaching position in field hockey, basketball and softball.“I was surprised,” Benfield recalled. “Honestly, at the time, I preferred just basketball and softball. I just didn’t know a lot about field hockey, and doing all three was a lot to handle. But (Wise) said, ‘Please take all three.’”She did, giving five years to girls’ basketball and 11 to field hockey, helping the Bears win two Ches-Mont League titles.But she stuck around the softball field much, much longer. She even played it for thirtysome years, devoting most of her summers to the teams in Pottstown and Bally, then to the Pennsylvania Liberties – a professional team that played at Reading Municipal Stadium for a year before the franchise moved to Chicago. Benfield opted to stay home and resumed playing for the Topton VIPs.And kept coaching and coaching and coaching, and teaching, at Boyertown.Benfield incorporated a lot of what she learned as a player into her approach as a coach. She was quick to point out she learned from the absoluate best — from Wise, Eckman and Gros, her field hockey coach at West Chester and the first U.S. Olympic field hockey team coach.“You always picked up a little from everyone, good or bad,” Benfield explained. “I really respected all three of them. I know I played hard because of them.“They didn’t yell or scream, not at all. They were very encouraging. They tried to be positive, and sometimes you get more out of (athletes) because of it. I just had total respect for all of them.”Because of rarely having any time off between seasons, in high school and college, Benfield made the transition to coaching three sports rather easily.“I was so used to going to school and playing three sports, so teaching and coaching three sports wasn’t any different,” she said. “The busier I was, the easier it was to manage my time.”What made it even easier, though, was her student-athletes in those early years.“It was such a big change for the kids, going from Marcella Wise to me,” Benfield said. “(Wise) was there for 25 or so years, in all three sports, before I started. But the kids accepted me. They were so supportive. It was a wonderful experience.”And it continued that way, for those 41 years. Having two of her former players – Monica Mathias and Robin (Herb) Schmale — as assistants for 20-plus years, sure helped. So did winning so many games.It was Mathias and her teammates back in 1982 that provided Benfield with unforgettable memories as any other.“That team was so good because they wanted to be,” she recalled. “They asked to stay around after practice was over. They may not have had the most ability (of other Boyertown teams), but they just worked and worked at it because they wanted to be successful.”The Bears didn’t do badly that year, either. After finishing second in the Ches-Mont League, they won the District 1-AAA title and finished fourth in the state – a run underlined by a defense that committed just one error in six postseason games.Working hard like the Bears did that spring, and working hard as a team, is something Benfield feels the game may be losing nowadays.“When I started we had 25 kids on our team,” she explained. “We had 25 on the varsity, and a lot of the girls didn’t really play that much. But that wasn’t important to them because they all wanted to be part of the team.“I don’t really know if teams were better at the beginning of my career as they were at the end. I know kids start playing at a much young age now, and they may be more motivated because they want to be part of something special. But I just don’t know if being a part of a team means as much today. I just don’t know.”Two generations of Boyertown student-athletes knew Sue Benfield was always there and always part of their teams, though.