It’s easy to see why Shannon Karl was promoted from assistant coach to the head coach of the VCU field hockey team this year. At 9 in the morning, she meets with one of her student athletes and then finds time to have an interview, all while game-planning for the upcoming match against Columbia this Sunday.
Karl recently got engaged, sporting a shiny new ring on her hand. She isn’t rushing to the altar though.
“I have put everything else on hold until the end of the season, because the season is a top priority for me, she said. But after the season’s over, I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of wedding planning.”
Karl grew up with a field hockey coach as a mom and said she was part of the reason she pursued coaching.
“My mom has been quite an example for me in terms of fighting for what you want, working hard, and coaching with passion, she said. This passion is something that seems to be contagious. So you hope that if you can coach with passion, the players will play with passion and your other coaches will coach with passion as well. I think that’s the biggest thing I learned from my mom.”
Aside from spreading her enthusiasm for the sport, she also hopes for her players to come away from her tutelage as better people overall.
“First and foremost our entire coaching staff is here in a service role. We’re here to help these young women play the best hockey they can, but also to do very well in the classroom and when they graduate, be contributing members and leaders of society,” she said. “We want everybody who comes through this program to be a better hockey player, a better student, and a better person than they were when they first arrived,” she continued.
Along with guaranteeing her student-athletes become the best people they can be, she also is striving to change the culture of VCU field hockey to be more rigorous. She and her staff, associate coach Laura Baker, assistant coach Lauren van de Kamp, graduate assistant coach Daffy Burry, and strength coach Troy Morris have created a new mission statement for her players to buy into this season.
“All of us have bought into the goal of winning the Atlantic 10 championship,” she said. “It’s our first year in the A-10 and we’re really excited about taking on the role of introducing ourselves to the A-10 conference. We’re not just in our inaugural year, we’re here to fight for a championship and that’s what we’re all collectively working towards this fall.”
Karl is most excited to be joining the A-10 to show VCU is a capable program despite being new, and that they aren’t going to quit working towards their goal of winning the conference championship.
“The CAA was an incredible conference for field hockey, but the A-10 is just a new atmosphere for us,” she said. “We have the ability to introduce ourselves to all of our opponents in the conference this year, which we’re really excited about. We get to start with a clean slate, and that’s something not a lot of programs can say about themselves. That opportunity right there is huge for us.”