|Undergraduate Assistant Coach
Third Year • William & Mary '04
Someone who happens upon a Virginia Commonwealth University field hockey practice might, at first glance, wonder if the head coach is present.
She’s out there all right. Oftentimes, field boss Kelly McQuade can be found right in the middle of the drill giving her charges some hands-on demonstrations.
That’s one of the advantages of being a young head coach not far removed from her playing days. McQuade turns 27 in September.
“I played in the CAA. I know what it takes to succeed. I know the challenges. I know the way to guide them to become successful,” said McQuade, a 2004 graduate of William and Mary who played field hockey and lacrosse for the Tribe.
“Also, I can jump back in, school them in some drills. That never hurts. I love to be able to play and I’m still active enough that I can jump in and show them. I think it adds to the level of respect, helps with the level of credibility. I can still do it.”
She did it pretty well for the Tribe. McQuade was an All-CAA player in 2003, scoring 12 goals and adding four assists. She had five game-winning goals that season. For her career, McQuade had 28 points on 16 goals and six assists.
At Central Bucks West High in Doylestown, Pa., McQuade was an all-state field hockey player who had 31 career goals. She won letters in diving and lacrosse, as well, and left as the school’s career goals leader in lacrosse.
Once done playing, McQuade spent two years at William and Mary assisting the field hockey and lacrosse programs. She moved to VCU as an assistant in 2006 and was the head coach one season later.
VCU Director of Athletics Norwood T. Teague saw enough of McQuade to become confident she could lead the program even with her relatively limited coaching experience.
“Kelly at a young age is someone who seems like she’s been coaching for 10 years with the way she recruits, the way she relates to her players, just the way she runs the program,” Teague said.
“She’s reshaped that team and that program in ways I could not have imagined. I’m excited to work with her and to see where she’ll take the program. It’ll be a great era under Kelly. We’re fortunate to have her. We have someone at a young age who is very talented, very professional, who is doing great things.”
McQuade’s first VCU team finished with a 5-13 record that is a little misleading. The Rams lost in overtime to nationally ranked teams American and Old Dominion. They lost by a goal to nationally ranked James Madison. They had four other one-goal defeats.
It was an upgrade over the previous season, when the team gave up at least four goals in 10 games. Last season, that number fell to four. The team gave up two or fewer goals 11 times.
McQuade is confident the improvement can continue this season and into the future.
“I’d like to see is where we are consistently in the top 20 and challenging for the CAA title,” McQuade said.
Her message is being well received on the recruiting trail, where she makes it clear that prospective players shouldn’t expect a soft coach just because she happens to be a young coach.
“I demand a lot out of the players,” McQuade said. “I demand accountability. I demand that they are respectful of their fellow players, that they keep pushing to get us where we want to be.
“I think it is very important as a coach to incorporate all aspects of a kid’s life, not just athletics. For me, coaching includes everything. I’m going to get on your case if you’re not doing well in school, if you aren’t going to class, if you aren’t doing your study hall – as much if not more so than if you’re not doing what you should be on the field.”
VCU, she said, affords a student-athlete a chance to compete at a high level and provides the support needed to succeed academically.
“This is unparalleled,” McQuade said. “Having a specific advisor for the different sports that meet with the teams once a week, having the tutoring available, the study halls, so many things that are geared toward the academic success of the students. The support is incredible. That is one of the biggest selling points of VCU. The school is committed to excellence before you get on the field.”
Once on that field, McQuade will take her stick and show her team exactly what she means.
“We’ve gone from no structure to having a structure,” she said. “We play much more of a possession game. Attack. Make them tired. Attack. I don’t know that we’ll ever have that 100 percent flashy, skilled player. We’re going to work to be so strong as a team, where everybody is on the same page and everybody knows what everybody else is doing so you can know without having to look where everybody is going to be.”