Published October 16. 2013 4:00AM Updated October 16. 2013 12:13PM
Throughout her time at Branford, Chelsea Sheehan expected she'd play field hockey in college, yet ultimately wound up on the softball field and had four stellar seasons at Division I Iona. Now, Chelsea is journeying down another unexpected path for she was recently named head coach of softball at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.
Chelsea graduated from college with a marketing degree and was working at Madison Square Garden when she learned the Sarah Lawrence position was open. Chelsea had stayed involved with softball by coaching a 12-U travel team, but didn't expect to get the nod with the Gryphons due to her lack of collegiate experience, saying she applied for the job "on a whim." When that whim became reality, Chelsea left MSG to join Sarah Lawrence, where she hopes to work in the athletic department. She's currently guiding her athletes through fall practices and says she's "beyond excited" to start the season in the spring.
"It was one of the biggest risks of my life to give up MSG, but with the support of my family and friends, I decided to pursue my dream. This is where my heart and soul is and I don't regret a thing," says Chelsea, 23, who captained both her teams at Branford, as well as Iona softball. "I love softball so much and it's amazing to see the girls' faces light up with joy when I'm teaching them. Softball helped shape me into who I am and so I just want to give back in any way possible."
Chelsea-who twice made All-Oronoque for Hornets' softball and was an All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection her senior year at Iona-is emphasizing an open line of communication between she and her athletes, along with practices that simulate game situations. Chelsea adds that she's eager to hit the recruiting trail and handpick the players who will usher the Gryphons into the future as they transition into an NCAA Division III program.
"The first thing I told my team was that we need to know what each other is thinking in order to be successful and so I will have an open door if they have any issues or concerns. I also told them that the practices will be fun, but difficult, and I'll put them in situations that will have them ready for anything come game time," Chelsea says. "Right now, my goal is to keep the team growing and develop their fundamentals. Moving forward, I want to recruit girls from all over the country who come here because they love softball. As we go into the NCAA, we'll play better competition and I'll work them even harder."
Chelsea knows all about facing top-tier competition for she played several years with the Connecticut Hornets of AAU. Don Justus coached Chelsea and feels she will make an excellent head coach.
"Chelsea displayed a strong level of character that was unlike any athlete I've coached. She was a team player who always knew what to say at the right time. She also understood what it meant to lead by example," says Justus. "Chelsea's experience playing softball at all levels will help her immensely and she will do an excellent job and have a big impact in helping her athletes achieve success beyond what they dreamed."
Chelsea also plans to draw from her experience with Branford field hockey, a team for which she was a two-time All-State selection and team MVP who won a pair of state titles. In fact, Chelsea made such an impact that coaches Cathy and John McGuirk created the Chelsea Sheehan Extraordinary Effort Award in her honor.
John describes Chelsea as "a people person and a great teacher" and Cathy is right in tune with those sentiments.
"Chelsea is a true leader and a superb individual. She was one of the most positive kids I've ever worked with and we were blessed to have her in our program," she says. "Chelsea is going to make a wonderful coach."