#ThisBUCSGirlCan – Interview with graduate and Talent Coach Shirley McCay
Our attentions for #ThisBUCSGirlCan week now turn to Shirley McCay, Ulster University graduate and Talent Coach for Ulster Hockey Union. Shirley was part of the Ulster University Elks Hockey 1s team who won the Irish Senior Cup (twice!), the Intervarsity Chilean Cup and the European Challenge Cup 1. Not only this, but Shirley is Assistant Coach to the Ulster University Elks 1s AND a senior international player.
- Please tell me a little about the position you are in now; title, what the role entails, how long you have been in this role?
I am the Talent Coach for Ulster Hockey. I first came into post in September 2013. It was a new post in the organisation which was good for me as I was able to bring a fresh approach to the work carried out and work off a clean page. My role basically involves finding up and coming talent, working with talented players within our performance systems and developing underage programmes to help produce quality players. This hopefully provides them with higher chances of playing representative hockey at Senior Level.
Since coming into my post I have designed new Primary School Programmes, Under 13 programmes, as well as Talent Camps that run in the holiday periods. I also have been head coach to the Under 16 girls and Under 18 boys.
- Please provide me with some background on how you have come to be in this role?
I have played hockey at international level since I was 15, and have always been interested and enjoyed the coaching side of things. When the opportunity came up to apply for this role it was too good to not have a go. I felt I had a lot of experience and having gone through the Ulster Hockey system myself, I could help to improve the talent side of things.
- How has sport and physical activity impacted your life?
Sport and physical activity has shaped who I am as a person. The experiences and lessons you learn through sport are like no other and you continually make memories to last a lifetime. I have learnt to deal with injury, failure, disappointment, conflict, and that has stood me well in general day to day life. In particular team sport for me has given me so many amazing opportunities and there is no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without those chances.
- Who inspired you to aspire for a leadership role in your field?
I don’t really think I have one person in particular, but there have been a number of people that have driven my ambition to work in a leadership role. When I work with young boys and girls and see their desire and work ethic, and their success through hard work and dedication, it makes my job easy and drives me to continue to help them reach their goals. One of the best parts of my job is seeing them grow not only as players but also as humans, and rewarded for their efforts. In a strange way they inspire me to do better.
- What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Always be willing to listen and improve.
- Define a leader: What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
Important traits: Passion and enthusiasm; work ethic combined with good organisational and time management skills; a desire to seek improvement as a measurement of success, as oppose to ‘winning’; ability to work as a team and accept criticism as a method of improving; a Poker face!
- What is one leadership lesson you have learnt during your career?
You can’t please everyone all of the time!
- What advice do you have for female students aiming for positions of leadership?
I think it is important not to compare yourself to anyone else, regardless of gender. Stereotypes will always exist but it is fact that no one is perfect and everyone will make mistakes. It is a shame there aren’t more female coaches recognised on the world stage, but certainly in business and sport some of the most driven, professional and successful people I have come across are female. Be confident in your role and don’t forget what you’re good at.