Shannon Soares named as the new Athletic Director after Tim Downes


Shannon Soares is set to be Westminster’s new Athletics Director next year

In just two months, Shannon Soares will bring her leadership, coaching experience, and knowledge to campus as she becomes Westminster’s fourth athletic director. 

Athletics have filled Soares’s life since her childhood. Growing up in Virginia as the daughter of a high school coach, Soares never shied away from sports fields. 

“I grew up on the sidelines of high school athletics fields, and from there, my interest and love for sports and athletics kind of snowballed,” said Soares. 

Her love of field hockey stemmed from her mother’s coaching, and she went on to play at the College of William and Mary. After graduating with a BA in kinesiology, Soares studied sports administration at the University of Louisville earning her MA. 

Soares kicked off her coaching career at Virginia Commonwealth University serving as an assistant field hockey coach. After becoming head coach in 2011, her dedication and commitment as a leader assisted the team in gaining recognition in the Atlantic 10 Conference. She then worked at the University of Washington as the school’s director of sports operations, but soon continued her coaching career as Georgetown University’s field hockey head coach. 

Soares moved on from coaching in 2017 to accept a promotion as the associate athletics director for administration and varsity sports at Georgetown. Her journey working in athletics will continue at Westminster, and she is excited for this next chapter of her life. 

“It’s no secret that excellence is around every corner at Westminster,” said Soares. “The type of young person that Westminster attracts is bright, driven, and has ridiculously high aspirations, and the ability to contribute to a student experience through the avenue of athletics is a really exciting opportunity for me.”

While Soares is eager for the future of Westminster athletics, her first priority is to listen, adapt, and understand her new community. 

“I think a big part about my job early on will be learning as much as I can about how things work at Westminster,” she said. “It will be learning about the student athlete experience and listening to parents, coaches, Catbackers, and students within the community to really understand what are the things that Westminster athletics does great and what are the things that we can build on.” 

Soares is especially delighted for her young daughter to be able to experience the hard work and dedication of the older student athletes. 

“Scout loves being around older girls that are athletes too, and for her to be able to see someone like y’all compete in their sport, find success in it, and watch y’all work hard, that is the epitome of what I want to give her,” said Soares. “There’s a lot of power and value in that too, and I’d be lying to say that wasn’t a big reason that I was drawn to Westminster.” 

While excited for this new chapter, Soares will have to adapt to not having field hockey in her life, a sport she’s been playing or coaching her entire life. Nonetheless, she welcomes the new changes that come with the title of Westminster Athletics Director.

“It wasn’t a deal breaker for me,” said Soares. “To me, I think high school athletics and every sport and program that falls under the athletics umbrella is an opportunity to help develop young people through sport.”

Aside from Soares’s personal excitement, many other members of the Westminster community are looking forward to her contribution on campus.

“I’m excited to see Shannon Soares elevate Westminster athletics and help us reach our full potential,” said sophomore Lily Nastopoulos, a member of the Student Athletic Council. “[During Soares’s interview] she had a really great personality, and I could tell just by talking with her that she cares a lot about the athletes, and she’s really excited about helping us at Westminster.” 

One of Soares’s most important goals as Athletic Director is building individual relationships with each athlete.  

“I really like how invested she seemed in all of us during the interview process when we talked to her,” said Nastopoulos. “She seemed super interested in what we had to say and our opinions about Westminster athletics right now.” 

As the interview process continued, Student Athletic Council members decided she was the best candidate for the job. 

“I thought she was the best candidate because she was so qualified, and she has worked with colleges in the past like Georgetown University,” said Nastopoulos. “Because she played field hockey in college, she knows what it’s like to be an athlete, and she understands their physical, mental, and academic struggles as well.” 

With her extended experience working in sports and her commitment to building community on campus, Soares will be a great addition to Westminster. While she loves watching the sports she grew up playing, she also has found a love for other sports that she didn’t play or compete in. 

“I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer,” said Soares. “I love football and basketball, and I have a deep appreciation for distance runners because I’m not one of them quite frankly.”

Soares enjoys watching cross country and track and field and has a special appreciation for individual sports like wrestling, golf, and swimming and diving.  

“I’ll be a fan of every sport at Westminster,” said Soares. “I’ll be on the sidelines, in the gym, and on the pool deck, and I can’t wait to watch student athletes in the competition arena.” 

The addition of Soares as the new athletic director means Westminster is gaining an experienced and dedicated leader but also a cheerleader and Wildcat fan. We are all thrilled for Shannon Soares to join our hard-working community and enrich the lives of Wildcat athletes of all ages.

Edited by Riley Sager