New Shawsheen Tech girls hockey coach Kate O’Shea

Former player Kate O’Shea takes over as the new girls hockey coach at Shawsheen Tech. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

BILLERICA – When Kate O’Shea was a player for the Shawsheen Tech Girls Hockey team, putting together a fantastic four-year career which saw her score 107 career points before graduating in 2015, she left an indelible mark on the history of the Rams program, which has often struggled over the past decade plus in terms of wins and losses, posting just a 34-143-10 record from 2011-2020.

But in her junior year of 2014, when she paired with fellow 100-point scorer Kennedy Harper, the Rams went 11-8-2 and made their only tournament appearance of the decade, winning a preliminary round game over Scituate before being eliminated by traditional powerhouse Wellesley.

Now as the new head coach of the Rams, O’Shea is hoping to return that winning tradition to the program that she loves, as she takes over for former head coach Bob Roach, who led the Rams for most of the past 12 years before stepping down this past off season. It will certainly not be an easy task, but it is one that she is eagerly looking forward to.

“I am very excited to get started,” O’Shea said recently in the days leading up to the start of the season. “I have played hockey my whole life, so staying connected to the game is a very big thing and staying connected with the girls on this team is a very big thing as well.”

After graduating in 2015 as the program’s second all-time leading scorer, the Billerica native took her talents to Nichols College where she once again put together a terrific career, earning Colonial Hockey Conference (CHC) Academic All-Conference honors in her senior season of 2019. Throughout her career at Nichols, O’Shea always looked back fondly on her time at Shawsheen, where she played under Roach, so after graduation when the opportunity arose to become Roach’s assistant coach, she jumped at it, eager to learn all she could about coaching.

“I came back from college and I reached out to coach Roach to be a volunteer, and is it turned out he needed an assistant coach, so I thought what better way to learn than at Shawsheen, with coach Roach,” O’Shea said.

While the Rams struggled in her first season as an assistant under Roach, scuffling to a 2-14 record, they began to turn things around during this past season’s abbreviated campaign going 4-5, and giving hope that the program may be on the rise.

“That is a big part of the reason why I enjoy being here,” O’Shea said. “I have been here before, and been part of the program. I have been through the ups and downs, so to see where I came from to where the program is now, is amazing. We had a good year last year, so we are hoping carry that over to this season.”

Shawsheen Tech Athletic Director Al Costabile is confident that O’Shea has what it takes to lead the Rams for many years to come. While does not bring a great deal of experience to the job, Costabile feels the intangibles she brings to the bench will be invaluable in leading the program going forward.

“Kate will bring a lot of passion to the job. She is very energetic and she will be able to relate to the girls, having played in high school and college, and being part of their same generation,” Costabile said. “We are happy to give her a start. Everybody needs to start somewhere and she showed she is ready for it with the job she has done as an assistant the past two seasons.”

O’Shea is hoping that her being closer in age to many of her players will prove to be an asset in the early going of her career while she continues to gain the experience that will help her as she continues her career.

“I definitely think it will help,” O’Shea said. “That was a big thing when I was interviewed. I am very young and I have never coached but I just recently stopped playing, and I can pass that experience on to my players. I can definitely relate to the players on a different level, since I just stopped playing.”

With that said, O’Shea will also be using plenty of the lessons that she learned during her time at Shawsheen, playing and coaching under Roach, particularly his team first philosophy that he maintained throughout his career.

“Coach Roach always stressed keeping the girls together and that we are all one team,” O’Shea said. “It doesn’t matter where we came from before, on the ice, we are all together. We need to work hard and play together. It is always just us together as a team. That always stuck with me. I want to make it enjoyable the way he always did.”

While following along with Roach’s basic philosophy, she also has plenty of ideas of her own to bring to the table, many of which she learned while at Nichols, an experience which she calls difficult, but also life changing.

“Playing in college was definitely more challenging than I expected. It is a huge step up in competition,” O’Shea said. “You are in the weight room every day at 5:00 am, and then you go to class, and then after that, it is practice. It is a very long season and it is very demanding, but if you are committed to it, it is great. It was the best four years of my life.”

Now, O’Shea is bringing that same commitment to her new role as head coach. While her hockey knowledge has never been in question, the role of head coach is a new one, and she has been grateful for the help of her two veteran assistant coaches, Mike Giordano and Rachel Desilets.

“It was definitely a little stressful at the beginning, because I didn’t know a lot of the behind the scenes responsibilities that come along with being the head coach,” O’Shea said. “But coach Giordano and coach Desilets have been a huge help. It also helps that I know some of the girls from the past couple of seasons with the team, and I know how they play and the attitudes they bring to the team.”

As far as the attitude she is looking for from her players it is multifold, of course, but mainly O’Shea wants her players to always be great teammates to each other.

“I expect hard work and dedication from the girls,” O’Shea said. “Obviously, school comes first over sports, but if you are going to make a commitment to a team, you have to be willing to work. It’s okay to lose a game, as long as we are working hard. If we do that, the wins will come.”

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