Photo credits:Connecticut Whale (top) Patrick Philpott (middle left) Matthew Rainey (middle right) University of Bridgeport (lower left) New York Rugby Clun (lower right}

SOPHIA AGOSTINELLI: Multi-Tool, Multi-Sport

Cetacean Nation caught up last week with former #10 Sophia Agostinelli, the player we call our Swiss Army Knife. (See Sophia’s other inyerview on this site for more on that). Sophia is the epitome of a fan favorite, and in fact in season three she was chosen by the fans as one of the three “Stars of the League”. We wanted to chat about several of the varied aspects of her life that helped earn her the Swiss Army Knife moniker. And we got right into one them, rugby, with Sophia’s first words. “I just came home from rugby practice actually. I’m playing for Fairfield Yankees right, now because it’s right next to the house. New York Rugby Club practices are Tuesdays and Thursdays so I’ve been kind of having a full week of rugby. This summer I got the chance to play with the New York Rugby Club. I’d been saying I was going to give it a try for years. But I had been busy playing with the Whale, and coaching a lot, and the weekends and got so busy. I never had a chance to play in weekend games. This summer I had the time and we ended up going to Nationals. We didn’t win it all, but we did win about half the games but it was a really cool experience. You were playing against people that were Olympic level, they’re all very fit.”

Sophia continued,talking about her attraction to rugby, saying “It’s definitely a game of both finesse and contact, which is pretty cool. And it is one of the most fan and player friendly sports too, The fans and the players of both teams go out to the bar afterwards. So you’re out drinking with the team you just came up against full speed, full contact, and you just have to share a pint get over it, it’s greatL I can tell you, that definitely didn’t happen between any of NWHL teams. Mostly you’d be pretty bad for a long time after those games.”

When we asked Sophia about coaching rugby,she told us “To me, rugby is still a bit of an enigma, it’s such a crazy game with the weirdest crazy rules. So, I am not coaching it! When I see new players I feel I can confidently say that I know more than them, I will try to help them. For example, this Fairfield Yankees team has a lot more new players. Younger girls are just coming out of high school, and I can help them out. But, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go and coach a whole team (yet) because I just don’t know that much about all of it Sometimes still, the officials blow the whistle, and I don’t know why. I think “did I do something wrong?” I used to always assume that it was me but now I don’t :) in rugby I like that we don’t get penalized for being physical, that is great”

Turning the conversation to hockey, Cetacean Nation first inquired as to Sophia’s status as a player. She revealed “I am actually coaching for the Mid-Fairfield Stars, their U12 team. I find coaching hockey to be super rewarding, and I almost enjoy it more than playing. I’m not really playing all that much right now. I’ve been doing a bit of men’s league over the summer, but nothing really that competitive. I wasn’t really sure if the NWHL was going to exist this year, so I couldn’t really commit to the Whale. I think as of right now they still have some spots open but at this point, I’ve committed myself to the club team and I would feel bad to back out because I am the head coach and I would miss everything” Sophia continued to clarify “I am all for the NWHL, I am not boycotting it and I want it to continue. I know it is a really big polemical thing right now, with people on both sides with very strong opinions. But I want the league to keep going. I think that the common perception is that the goals (of the boycotters) are noble but the means are. flawed. People have got to see both sides, and try to remove the emotion from it. You can’t burn bridges. Even if you’re not playing on the ice with them down the line, you may be with them on a coaching staff at some school. You don’t want to burn bridges with anyone over this current situation”

“Hopefully I will be able To get to some Whale games in Danbury this year depending on my weekend coaching schedule. I have to put the games into my calendar. I used to be right on top of that but with school just starting I’m little behind. In the summer I don’t keep track of things as much. I’m just getting used to what day it is, since I’m not working a 9-to-5 job in the summer. I just kind of float through it:) I have coached at the Danbury rink before, and it was amazing to play there when I was younger. Hopefully Danbury will be our forever home, no more migrating Whales:) With the NWHL, I’ve tried to be somebody accessible that people can just reach out to because I really do care about the sport and I do want to grow it. It is an awesome chance to just keep playing, that’s what it was for me. it’s also a chance to highlight a woman’s sport. I don’t care which sport it is, we’re getting paid and getting respect we’ve come a long way.”

Sophia also brought us up to date on what is going on in the lacrosse portion of her sporting life. She explained “I’m no longer doing the grad assistant job for University of Bridgeport lacrosse. I am probably going to coach their club lacrosse in the spring. spring, that’s their season right now. Right now, I have weird free time during the day which is kind of a common thing for coaches, so I pick up random clinics. I actually have a clinic during the week that is just first and second graders. It’s almost a little more babysitting than lacrosse:) it’s really cute to see some of these kids how hold a lacrosse stick that’s longer than their body, which is the case for like most of them They’re just so tiny! They run out and I see see that they don’t have goggles or mouthguards and I’m like “Where is your mom, she ddidn’t dress you right!” But at a a young age you can have a great influence on the athletic development of the players. Whereas when they get older they get stuck in their ways. In my experience, I’ve had a couple of players come in to Bridgeport, and they’re not throwing in a correct way. It’s kind of hard since they’ve been throwing their entire life that way, There’s not much you can do about it so they’re kind of stuckThrowing wrong I’ll have a word with the coaches are the teachers like “Hey, what’s going on here?”

Looking back, Sophia told us “ I started playing lacrosse pretty late. I did some clinics in eighth grade and I actually started playing for my first team freshman year of high school.At that time it was pretty common for people as freshman and sophomore‘s to get committed to their schools, so I was super behind the game. Playing hockey and just being an athlete was helpful to kind of adjust and get into lacrosse really fast. I got lucky because I tried out for a club team and the Holy Cross coach just happened to be one of the coaches there, and that was like the only glimpse she got of me. She needed one other player and I filled that spot. I think that happened in my senior year but that doesn’t really happen anymore. The success we had with the lacrosse team kind of inspired me I had been thinking of quitting I just wasn’t sure if it was the sport for me. I was penalized a lot! Lacrosse is a game of finesse and speed, and I’m kind of like, I don’t know, a bit more like a rhino :) If you can make contact at the right time that’s when you can do good in lacrosse. You have to know how to give and receive. If somebody runs into full speed into you, you can’t just be a brick wall. You have to be an absorbing wall. it took me a while, and now I try to teach players that.. There is this drill where you put your put hands up and you’re trying to push the other person over or pull them in.Your hands are touching hands nice and firm it will push them off balance if you have to be able to give and take.” Sophia also had the opportunity to travel overseas to play and coach lacrosse (which also led to hockey there) and she told us “I think that it’s not just lacrosse getting Americans somewhere but how American sports are perceived over there. They think we’re the best at everything, not soccer probably, but they look to us to come over as coaches or mentors because our level of play is so high. We have such such competition here and a lot of sports”

We knew Sophia was also continuing her work on her Masters Degree in the cutting edge feild of Biomechanical Engineering, so we asked her for an update. Sophia replied “I am all pretty much done with my classes. I just have to work on my thesis now which is just kind of a three credit type of class. The lacrosse internship was nine credits and had me doing a lot of traveling a lot of hours are put in for that work I kind of want to scale back as I shouldn’t be working that much for three credits and I might need more time for the thesis. Currently being being a lab assistant, I found that six hours worth of work it’s much easier to do with my schedule. I will graduate in spring of 2020 because I’m spreading my thesis work over the whole year. I’m excited about my actual degree but my the field I’m kind of going for right now is something more biologically-based because engineering isn’t really my background. I’m interested in the whole idea of, but the basic idea for biomedical engineering is that everybody has a different background and there’s a lot of different input. My background is in biology and if you take a mechanical engineer and put them together with a biologist, you can get kind of synergistic results. You get a new perspective when everybody comes together with their different backgrounds it’s really cool. There’s so many fields you can go into you are not pigeonholed anywhere. I know some people that are suffering from that right now, having too narrow a career path. There’s often no flexibility. For example, if your training is in accounting. you’re going to be doing accounting work. Which is important, but it’s not something I could be doing” Cetacean  Nation notes that Sophia has not been limited in her choices as an athlete, and she won’t be in her non-playing career either.

As Sophia mentioned earlier, she finds coaching very rewarding, but she also told us “It’s tough with the coaching but I’m doing my best to try to balance both because I’m not ready to give up playing yet” And as far as any other sports go, Sophia acknowledged, “If there is something else that presented itself and it sounded like fun you can count me in pretty much anytime. For example triathlon is something I’ve had in the back of my mind. One day I might do an Iron Man and that’s something I think I might be able to do when I’m like 50, because I’ve seen seventy year old people complete it. I’ll just save that for later, you know.” Cetacean Nation can easily imagine that would be something Sophia would do. But we can also imagine her still out on the ice, field or pitch as a player too. As we concluded our conversation, we reminded Sophia of (and thanked her for) her initial support and encouragement to help get Cetacean Nation started. Without Sophia’s input, our idea of Cetacean Nation would not exist. So Fins Up to #10 for that, as well as once again sharing some more great content and insight with the fans.