March 26, 2014
WASHINGTON – In mid-February, Georgetown University hired Shannon Soares as the school’s new field hockey head coach.
Soares, a Centreville, Va. native, previously spent six years on the VCU coaching staff. In her first season as a head coach in 2012, Soares led VCU to a 13-6 record and earned the program’s first berth to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The 13-6 finish ranked as the third-best turnaround in Division I field hockey that year after the squad went 5-13 in the previous 2011 season. In addition, Soares graduated from William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. as a four-year field hockey letterwinner.
Recently, Soares answered some questions about Georgetown University, the field hockey program, her coaching style and her transition into the D.C. community.
Q: What made Georgetown an attractive opportunity for you?
Soares: Georgetown University is a prestigious University that attracts a very high caliber student and athlete to its campus; this was evident in the brief time I was able to spend with the team on my interview. These young women are serious about their work in the classroom and what they want to achieve on the field. That’s pretty special.
Georgetown was also an attractive opportunity for me because of the location. I was born and raised in the Northern Virginia area, I played my high school and club hockey here and my family is here. My mom is a long time high school field hockey coach in the area and my 14-year-old sister is just beginning her high school field hockey career where she will play under her. This gives me the opportunity to support the both of them.
Q: You were previously at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash., and Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, Va. How has your transition been to Georgetown, as a school, and D.C., as a city?
Soares: I will always be grateful for my time at VCU. I had the chance to work with some very inspiring individuals. Those people ranged from former administrators to fellow coaches and to the student-athletes I was fortunate enough to recruit during my time on campus. My husband and I made the move to Seattle so that he could pursue a professional opportunity at the University of Washington. While our time in Seattle was brief, I’m thankful for the experience and feel as though it helped me gain great insight and experience with respect to collegiate athletic administration.
When this opportunity opened up at Georgetown, it almost seemed too good to be true. The University, the opportunity to rebuild a program and the location just seemed right to my family and me. We are ecstatic to join the Georgetown family and equally as excited to welcome the Georgetown field hockey family into our own.
Q: What is your first impression of the Georgetown field hockey team?
Soares: I spent an hour and a half with the team during the final portion of my interview on campus. I’ve said it many times over the last few weeks, but that hour and a half was the best part of my day. When I sat down to speak with them, I quickly saw a group of young women who were eager to be led and had a strong desire to improve, compete and succeed. They were fully engaged and their eyes lit up when I spoke about certain ideas and concepts. It was evident to me that our objectives and goals aligned and that while there would be challenges ahead of us, collectively, we could move forward, in a new and fresh direction. To say that I’m excited to work with this group of young women would be an understatement. They are a special group and I can’t wait to get started with them.
Q: You were at the forefront of a major turnaround at VCU as a first year head coach. What was the key to that turnaround?
Soares: We had a hardworking, complementary coaching staff and a group of student-athletes who believed in our vision. When you have those two components, alongside administrative support, you can accomplish special things. We focused on creating and delivering an explicit plan, opening lines of communication between our players and our staff, developing internal leadership and holding our program accountable for the core values we created together.
Q: Your field hockey team at VCU posted the highest grade point average for the fall 2012 semester at VCU. What are your thoughts on the balance between education and athletics?
Soares: Having been a student-athlete at an academically rigorous institution like William & Mary, I learned very quickly to appreciate the importance of balance. I want our student-athletes to be known for their hard work both in the classroom and on the field and to carry themselves with a degree of professionalism that will allow them to excel in life after graduation.
Q: How would you characterize your coaching style?
Soares: I’d like to think I’m a vocal and energetic coach who fights for my players. I preach energy every day and believe you can’t make progress without exuding it in every facet of what we’re doing, from in the classroom, to training, to fitness, to our footprint in the community. Having been out of coaching for a year made me realize very quickly how much I enjoy the mentorship aspect of working with student-athletes. It’s important to me that the student-athletes who sign with our program leave the Hilltop as better students, players and people. Having the opportunity to help aid in that development process is quite a privilege for me.
Q: What brand of field hockey do you want your team to be known for playing?
Soares: You can expect us to be a program that is focused on controlling the controllables. We will commit ourselves to the areas of fundamental and technical skill development, fitness and effort. You can expect to see a team that fights for a full 70 minutes, has a bit of a “chip on the shoulder” mentality when we take the field and is appreciative of the opportunity we have to represent Georgetown University in the sport of field hockey.
Q: What are your thoughts on BIG EAST field hockey?
Soares: It’s no secret the BIG EAST is one of the strongest conferences in the country with respect to the sport of field hockey. Some of the best coaching minds in the sport are a part of our conference. We are excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us and can’t wait to welcome our fellow conference teams to campus this fall.
Q: Any favorite parts of D.C. yet?
Soares: Other than campus, I have been introduced to Jetties and the Tombs, two of my new favorite spots to grab lunch.