COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – January 23, 2020 – Whenever the U.S. Women’s National Team was in the heat of battle over the last decade, an iconic number 24 of the red, white and blue could be frequently seen leading the charge on offense. After nine years and 176 international appearances, USWNT captain and Rio 2016 Olympian Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) has formally announced her retirement from the team.
“Kat has been a key member of the U.S. Women’s National team for the past nine year, and an influential captain since 2018,” said Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey’s Executive Director. “Her level of play is up there with the best in the world. We extend our best wishes for the next chapter in her life."
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team for this long,” said Sharkey. “It was incredibly rewarding, fulfilling and challenging. I truly enjoyed being on this journey with such strong and inspiring women and I’ll always cherish the memories that we made on and off the field.”
Participating in a variety of sports growing up in Pennsylvania, Sharkey found an especially powerful connection to field hockey through her older sister, Laura. When her first opportunity to play popped up in the seventh grade, she was one of the first to register.
“I liked the challenge of learning about this new sport that I had never played before and also being a part of a team with my closest friends,” added Sharkey. “After that first year, I tried to play as much as I could and so I joined a club team and I signed myself up for as many camps and clinics that I could find.”
The rest slowly became history as Sharkey continued to develop by playing with the Valley Styx club, as a student-athlete at Wyoming Seminary and a recognizable participant in Futures from 2005-08. During her senior year at Wyoming Seminary, Sharkey was the second-highest goal scorer in the United States and was ultimately named Most Valuable Player for both the team and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class A before moving on to play at Princeton University.
As a Tiger, Sharkey continued to display outstanding play and collected a multitude of accolades from 2008-10 and 2012. She was named First Team All-Ivy and First Team All-Region each of her four seasons and was a three-time First-Team All-America selection (2009, 2010, 2012). Sharkey was also named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and third-team All-America in 2008. In 2010, she was the NCAA Division I leading scorer, was named Princetonian Female Athlete of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Honda Award for field hockey. As a senior in 2012, she became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 107 goals, and became first in all-time points with 245, enroute to another season as the Division I leading scorer. These accomplishments led to Sharkey being named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.
“From very early on in my playing career, I knew I wanted to play in college,” continued Sharkey. “I wanted to be the best field hockey player that I could possibly be and I knew that college was an environment that would help take my game to the next level. Princeton was exactly what I was looking for in a college field hockey experience. I enjoyed the challenges that I faced both on the field and in the classroom. I learned so many lessons through my athletic and academic experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
While excelling on the pitch at Princeton, Sharkey was also making an impact in the Olympic Development Pathway. In 2008, she was named to the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team and helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the Junior Pan American Championship in Mexico City. In 2010, she was named to the U.S. Women’s National Development Team before joining the senior USWNT in 2011. After she received the invitation to represent USA on the highest level, Sharkey had decided to take a year off from Princeton in order to give full attention and training to the team, returning for her senior season in 2012. Her first international trip with USA was during the Germany/Belgium tour and she quickly made her presence known on the pitch for years to come.
Sharkey was on the squad that played in the 2012 Four Nations Tournament in Barcelona, Spain. The following year she helped the red, white and blue to a silver medal at the 2013 Pan American Cup in Mendoza, Argentina. Next, she was on the 2014 team that shocked the field hockey world with a fourth place finish at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands, and gold medal at the 2014 Champions Challenge in Glasgow, Scotland. Just before selections were made for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, Sharkey experienced her first major sports-related medical setback which sidelined her for the Olympic-qualifying tournament. USA prevailed over Argentina to win gold and punched their ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and being named to that squad was a moment that Sharkey noted is among the top of her career highlights.
“I always strived to be the best that I could be and to play at the highest level,” said Sharkey. “It was an incredible moment for me to read the team selection for the Olympic Games and see my name on the list. The team’s performances throughout the Olympic Games was the result of years of hard work and many sacrifices. To see all of our hard work pay off in those games was such a special feeling as an athlete.”
“The Olympic Games was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” continued Sharkey. “Standing on the field during the national anthem with my teammates in our first game was very emotional for me. It was a surreal feeling listening to the national anthem with my arms around my teammates next to me and to see my family in the stands supporting me as always. It was a goal that I had been chasing for a while and to know that I had accomplished it felt amazing.”
Following Rio, Sharkey’s presence on the field continued to be felt during many international events including a first-place finish at the 2017 FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, South Africa. The team’s “never say die” performance propelled USA’s momentum the following month at the women’s Pan American Cup on their home field in Lancaster Pa. In their opening match against Mexico, Sharkey registered a hat trick to boost USA to a first place finish in pool play and eventually a bronze medal. Her individual performance was recognized, and she was named to the Pan American Hockey Federation’s (PAHF) 2017 Pan American Elite Team.
Appointed team captain following the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup in London, Sharkey competed in all of USA’s matches in the inaugural season of the FIH Hockey Pro League before the team shifted focus to the 2019 Pan American Games. Prior to competition she had the honor of being selected as Team USA’s flag bearer during the opening ceremonies. She tallied four goals throughout her first Pan American Games, helping the USWNT to a bronze medal, and was named to the 2019 Pan American Elite Team.
Last November, Sharkey led USA in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier against No. 9 India, where the red, white and blue fell just short of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“First, I would like to thank my family,” said Sharkey. “My parents, Thomas and Anne, were incredibly supportive throughout every moment of my career. They were there for me after every win, loss, injury, setback or obstacle and without them I would not have reached my goals. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices that my parents and three siblings, Laura, Thomas and Jeffrey, made to allow me to devote my life to field hockey for the past seventeen years. I know it was not easy to plan family vacations and weddings around my schedule, but it meant so much that they would prioritize my career when planning these events. Their encouragement, love and positive messages were never-ending, and always meant so much to me.”
“I would like to thank my fiancé, Tom Schreiber, who has supported me every step of the way throughout my career,” continued Sharkey. “He has always believed in me and encouraged me to do whatever it takes to reach my goals. Without his support I would not have been able to have a career of this length on the national team.”
She would also like to thank all of her coaches from across her extensive career. High school coaches Karen Klassner and Kim Barbacci, club coaches Susan and Samantha Lloyd, Princeton coaches Kristen Holmes-Winn and Melisa Meccage, Craig Parnham and former USWNT head coach Janneke Schopman.
“Thank you for always believing in me, pushing me to be the best that I could be and helping me grow and evolve as a field hockey player,” added Sharkey. “You each had an impact on me as an athlete and person that has ultimately shaped me into who I am today and I am forever thankful.”
Sharkey is currently wrapping up her MBA and enjoying life with her fiancé. She hopes to stay involved in field hockey to some degree and will never stop supporting USA on game days.
USA Field Hockey would like to wish Sharkey best of luck in her future endeavors.