Katie Shields: Embracing an all-inclusive coaching methodology

Katie Shields arrives at Hermann Stadium prior to kick off against VCU in A-10 Tournament.
Katie Shields arrives at Hermann Stadium prior to kick off against VCU in A-10 Tournament.
(Photo Courtesy of SLU Women’s Soccer)

Katie Shield’s 11 years as head coach for the SLU women’s soccer team has brought numerous conference wins, school-records, awards and more. Shield’s greatest achievement in her eyes is seeing her women succeed.

The women are a part of a close-knit team if the banter and laughs are anything to go by, all led by the positive, yet competitive, Shields.

“She’s someone who wants to win no matter what,” said Caroline Kelly, a former SLU player.

Shields has built a dynasty not only by the talented players and support by SLU athletics, but by the values she looks to instill in every player that walks onto the field.

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“We focus on the principle: we over me,” said Katelyn Brinkman, a junior defender. That principle has achieved a lot of success for the team, and it is something Shields and the coaching staff will look for when recruiting.

“We recruit good students, good people. We have found that the most successful women that have come through our program, they have a growth mindset, but they’re good students,” Shields said. Recruiting looks at a player from all angles, their academics, their character and their style of play.

“We have a pretty positive environment, and that’s something people crave in a community,” Shields said.

A humble Shields takes no credit for the women that come into the program. “Our women are our biggest sellers in our recruiting,” she said.

Shields also attributes the interest in SLU to the uniqueness of the school, where the academic and athletic programs can work so well together. It is not unusual for the team to be driving late at night home from a tournament to get back for early morning clinicals. Shields is happy to work at a school that cares for the students as much as she does. “We are caretakers of dreams,” she said.

When Shields is not on the field coaching every day from 3-5, she can be found planning the next practices, what she spends the most time doing.

Shields’ own experience playing soccer helps her when preparing for practices. She often asks herself if she would enjoy the practice. “The cool thing about soccer is that it’s a player’s game,” she said.

The love and respect she has for her team is evident in the way she includes them as a part of her family. The team has gotten to know her actual family when she brings her son and daughter to the practices. “My kids get to grow up around these amazing role models,” she said.

Shields grew up in Dana Point, California, where she practiced soccer, softball, basketball and surfing. Education has always been an important aspect in Shields’ life, as both of her parents were public school teachers. Shields’ success at her club soccer team opened the door for her to extend her academic career at Harvard with a major in government. What seemed like a perfect butterfly effect, Shields was spotted by a scout at a tournament in Houston against the U16 National Team.  “Usually I didn’t get much action, but we did, so I had a good opportunity,” she said.

Harvard was the perfect place for Shields to advance her education and her soccer skills. “I have two loves, I love books and I love soccer,” she said. She worked at both the library and the athletic offices during her time.

After one of Shields’ college coaches connected her with a coach at University of California, Irvine, she jumped headfirst into the coaching world.

“The coaching door opened, and I just walked through it,” she said. She also has coaching experience at Northwestern, Harvard, U.S. Youth National Teams and many other teams.

Shields was able to gain unique experience with the wide range of coaching she has done. Coaching youth allowed her to try out what works before bringing it to the national level, which requires her to be on her edge.

“Every environment teaches you something about athletes and also about yourself as a coach,” she said.

Her coaching experience, athletic past and her emphasis on education has helped her create a successful team. However, she acknowledges the importance of SLU’s athletic programs.

“They not only gave me the chance, but they really supported me. They gave me time, they gave me resources, they supported me through hard early years. And a lot of my peers maybe don’t get that,” she said.

Janet Oberle, the deputy director of athletics at SLU, said, “She is very integral in our department as a leader within the coaches.”

Shields’ love for SLU is evident in her gratitude and excitement when talking about her job. “Bury me under Hermann,” she said when asked if she would ever leave.




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