Head Women’s Soccer Coach Sinead McSharry

Sports in the Time of COVID

Not spending time on the ‘what ifs’ and beginning each day with gratitude

A Q&A with Head Women’s Soccer Coach Sinead McSharry

Q: How did you stay connected with your team amid all the uncertainty this summer? 

A: When everybody got sent home, we decided to use a different approach and minimized our contact at first, based really on the stress and the newness of moving to remote learning. I just thought they were completely overwhelmed. I didn’t want them to hate soccer. I wanted them to figure out themselves and their schedule. So then, when the summer hit, we decided to implement a couple of different ideas, and the one thing we tried to emphasize was “let’s have some fun and let’s get them outside.” We decided to, first and foremost, do a one day a week workout over Zoom, and then we also did some work around how to be a team, including opportunities to talk about their roles in the team and why everyone’s role matters. 

Q: When the Liberty League made the announcement about cancelling the fall season, how did you break that news to them?

A: We had a Zoom session, and I would say probably 80 percent of them were not shocked. We’d been keeping in contact a lot through our captains and our leadership: They saw the writing on the wall. After the call, I got a bunch of texts from the players, just being grateful for what we’ve tried to do and speaking about how we still have an opportunity to do something. Our team is built on gratitude. It’s part of our daily wellness questionnaire and it’s an important facet in our culture. So, I don’t think they spent too much time dwelling on the “what ifs.”

Q: What is the daily wellness questionnaire?

A: I don’t know if other teams do it, but essentially, we track a couple metrics. The players each report before 9 a.m. every day, and document how they feel stress-wise, as well as ask specifically about each body part, level of soreness, etc. We also track how much water they consumed, how much they slept, and the quality of their sleep. The last metric is not even really a metric, but it’s a gratitude comment. Some players will send us funny memes from Instagram, and others will just be thankful for the smallest of things. It’s about starting your day with gratitude and a good attitude. There’s been a lot of research to say that if you wake up grateful, the rest of your day is going to be pretty positive.

Q: What does your training plan look like without a season?

A: That’s a great question. I feel like I’m on a sabbatical that coaches almost never get. I’ve put together our game model, how I think we can play based on the two years of experience we will have just working together. Ultimately, this is a great opportunity to really heed our development and break ground on some of the concepts that we get to teach in season, without the distraction of a game. 

Off the field, we have the five core values of our team—unity, joy, relentlessness, authenticity, and devotion—and a value of the week that everybody knows we’re working on. You have to show up and it’s all about attitude and it’s all about gratitude. We never want to shy away from the hard work, and we never want to give into the things that are going to distract us because we have a really great opportunity here.

Q: What do you think will be the most important lesson learned this season?

A: The importance of appreciation and of being present, how a simple flow of gratitude can influence your attitude, and that life is really short. We are only ever guaranteed today, so let’s make the most of every minute we have together.