United States Sports Academy alumnus Conor O’Shea – a rugby director of operations who led England’s Harlequins club to the Aviva Premiership Title in 2012 – was recently named head coach of the Italian national rugby team.
Under the leadership of O’Shea (Master of Sports Science in sports management, 1996), the Italian national team began the 2016 campaign with a 2-1 record in the June internationals, a tour in which it lost to Argentina but defeated the United States 24-20 and Canada 20-18. O’Shea said taking over the Italian national team is a challenge he looks forward to tackling.
“It is a big challenge with Italy, but it is a really exciting one because they are passionate and willing to change for the better; the people are incredible,” O’Shea said. “If we can harness the natural physicality and aggression that the people have here and get ourselves fitter and mentally stronger, then we can achieve a lot. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.
“I always find it difficult to say what my style is as I will leave that for others to decide, but the higher up you go in coaching, and by the time you reach the international level, the balance shifts more from the technical to the mental and the tactical,” he added.
O’Shea earned a bachelor of commerce degree from University College Dublin and a diploma in legal studies at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He earned a Master of Sports Science degree in sports management from the United States Sports Academy in 1996.
“I had earned a degree and did post grad in commerce, banking and law, but I always loved my sport,” O’Shea said. “My M.S.S. in sports management allowed me to marry my previous degrees to the passion I had for sport. The Academy was where I met like-minded people in a different environment: an Irish man in Alabama in summer struggles in the heat.
“I really look back fondly on my time there and would love to come back and visit one day.”
O’Shea said he was fortunate to find the Academy’s master’s program, which allowed him to continue working in sport while pursuing his degree.
“Distance learning was the only way I could have completed the course,” O’Shea said. “While at an institution that has so many sports people, it was easy to continue to train and be ready for my next season. I was very fortunate to find the fit.”
As a player, O’Shea competed for Ireland in the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995. He played professionally before retiring in 2000 after a career-ending injury. Since that time, O’Shea has remained involved in rugby as a coach and administrator.
“I have coached and managed London Irish, who I also played for, and worked for the English Rugby Football Union as their head of National Academy for five years,” O’Shea said. “I spent two years as the national director of the English Institute of Sport and then six years as director of Rugby at Harlequins from 2010-16.”
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.