Ask a Coach: Kelsey Bonner

July 8, 2020 | Featured Stories, Ask a Coach

Kelsey Bonner just finished her third year as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland. And like most high school coaches, Kelsey juggles a full-time career with her coaching responsibilities. How does she do it? By employing the well-honed time-management skills developed as a student-athlete at the University of Vermont and what we’d have to assume is a nearly limitless amount of energy.

Kelsey is a critical care registered nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelsey has been called upon to work with multidisciplinary teams to formulate surge planning for COVID at her hospital while also working shifts as the ICU registered nurse on COVID floors at UMMC. She credits her experience as a coach and a student-athlete with giving her the confidence to lead throughout the pandemic.

What’s your advice for young athletes in high school or college?

My biggest piece of advice for young athletes in high school is to find your passion, develop a unique skill, and shoot for the stars.

For college athletes, my advice is to soak up every moment. The locker room dance parties, 5:00 a.m. wake-up calls, three-a-day preseasons, ice baths, and being a member of a team. Training sessions seem to last a lifetime, but the years go by in the blink of an eye!

Was it hard to major in nursing and play Division I field hockey?

It was challenging, but I developed great time management skills that can apply to my busy profession. During the recruiting process, I prioritized programs that accepted my heavy curriculum and viewed me as a student-athlete instead of as just an athlete. 

What do you feel is the most difficult technique to teach?

For me the most difficult technique to teach is the ability to listen and read the game. It’s difficult for younger players to listen to what’s going on around them, read the opponent, and continually adapt to the game being played in that moment.

How do you relate to your players?

I relate to my players through shared experience — by being the youngest coach on the sideline and attending Archbishop Spalding High School several years ago, just like them! We all have shared the same head coach!

What is it like to juggle a nursing career and a coaching position?

During the season, I primarily work 12-hour overnight shifts. I sleep for about six hours during the day, head to practice, eat dinner, and then get to my work shift by 7:00 p.m.!

If I am working three shifts in a row, it becomes difficult to juggle, but the coaching staff at Spalding is a great help. My players make it so fun and totally understand when I count numbers wrong…night-shift brain!

What is it like to be a nurse during COVID-19?

Being an ICU nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unexpected journey.

My coaching experience gave me the confidence to be in my leadership role during these uncertain times. Due to the surge, we transitioned into team nursing. This meant taking on whatever role was necessary for the betterment of the patient, much like being on a sports team.

My field hockey experience taught me how to make meaningful connections with different personalities, how to perform under pressure, the importance of being the best I can be when no one else is watching, and the confidence to achieve anything I set my mind to. This impacts my approach to work every day. Nursing is about connecting and healing. It’s about doing your best for your patient who is on life support. It’s about helping patients and families through critical times, encouraging them, and being there as the best I can be.

Thank you, Kelsey, for answering our questions and for your tireless work throughout the pandemic.

Want more answers? Check out our Ask a Coach series featuring answers from University of Pennsylvania’s Colleen Fink, York College’s Katie Fost, and West Chester University’s Amy Cohen!