Coach profile: Sean McKuras
September 27, 2017
Sean McKuras is in his 16th year as coach of the UWRF women’s soccer team, with a career record of 142-131-26. He has helped guide the team to a 3-5 record this season, with a few tough losses at home in the opening weeks. Coming off of a 7-0 over Northland on Sunday, the team heads into WIAC conference play looking to improve on their sixth-place conference finish last season.
The Student Voice sat down with McKuras to learn more about what brought him to River Falls and how soccer has impacted his life.
Q: When did you first begin coaching?
A: I started coaching in high school and got to help a little bit as a junior and had my own team as a senior. By the time I went to college I started off at UW-Eau Claire. In college, I had the boy’s JV in the fall and the girl’s JV team along with the men’s club team. I think I was always a better coach than I was a player.
Q: What about that journey prepared you for coaching at the college level?
A: On most of my initial teams I had strong personalities. I think managing the players in coaching is as big as the x’s and o’s. I also had some really good opportunities early on. I tried to keep things pretty balanced, so when I had the Shakopee boy’s varsity team, I also had a girl’s team for club. I’ve always enjoyed coaching the women at this university because the teams have been few and far between where the women blame others. I’ve been very fortunate to have groups of young women that look to fix things as opposed to wasting energy pointing out whose fault it is.
Q: How did you first hear about a coaching position at River Falls?
A: I had gone to school in Eau Claire and was going to be an accountant and a minor in economics. I found out that wasn’t for me and took a year off and moved back to the Twin Cities. I was offered the assistant position at River Falls and I was able to change my major and graduate from UW-River Falls.
Q: What sold you on the University?
A: At first it was just the experience. It was pretty unique being a senior and the head coach, so I had classes with some of my players. That first season I had players that were less than two years younger than me. It was easier because we were in it together. We didn’t have what we have now, like our own locker room and our own field. Back then you had to fight for everything.
Q: What has changed in the time you have been at River Falls?
A: We’ve been supported professionally and Rick Bowen was a big mentor in my life. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by different coaches that have been here since I started. It is somewhat unique to look around at the current staff and see that many people that have been here 15-plus years. It was a newer program when I started, and we’ve had different versions of this team. Now we have those that want us to succeed and the program is much more established and well supported.
Q: What has been the most memorable event in your years as head coach?
A: There have been quite a few moments that have stood out. Bur right now it’s the moments of the weddings and when they bring back their kids and tell me their favorite memories. I recognize it’s about the experience they have and the degree they get, and how positive soccer was in their experience at the university.
Q: Is there a type of soccer you try to have your teams play, or does it vary year to year?
A: For the current group, the style is one of the most complete versions we’ve put together. When you look at what we’ve done so far, we’re sitting at 3-5 but have played multiple teams in the top 25. The games that we’ve lost have been by a goal and there’s a few we’d really like back. I know what I’m most excited about is we haven’t seen the best about what this team can accomplish yet.
Q: How has having experienced players on this year’s team helped the younger players?
A: This group of juniors and seniors don’t just tell people what they want to see, they go out and want to do it. There’s a lot of leadership by example. In my experience, it’s very easy to point out problems, but it’s much more challenging to help people around you solve the problems.
Q: What has been the biggest struggle with the current squad?
A: It’s making the most of our opportunities. I look at our most recent game versus a couple of our home losses, where we had more shots against Hamline and St. Mary’s (two losses) than we did against Northland (7-0 win). We were able to be more productive with the shots we did have.
Q: What can this team still improve on this season?
A: The hope is to continue to get better at finishing our opportunities and staying disciplined on defense. The thing I’m most proud to be a part of is the culture on our team and what it’s like to be a member of our team. That’s something that our older players have created and I hope our younger players protect. They do it themselves and are such a good group.
Q: What is your goal for this year’s team?
A: Our goal is always to host a (WIAC) playoff game. Once you put yourself in that position, the options are much more open. We last hosted UW-La Crosse in 2014 and won in overtime, when the seniors were freshman.
Q: How has being Director of Youth Development for Woodbury Soccer Club impacted your life?
A: I feel like I’m very fortunate to be involved with soccer year-round. I have access to a lot of resources in coach and player development and my hope is that I’m always moving forward with how I’m looking at the game. There is no time off, and with club teams and the Olympic Development Program, there’s always an opportunity to learn from other coaches and put those thoughts into practice. It also gives me access to wonderful coaches. All three assistant coaches (at UWRF) are from the development program, and that has been a huge part of our culture and success.