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Tragedy Provided O'Leary With Perspective

Sara O'Leary always tries to instill a sense of community in the programs she coaches.

Virginia Head Coach Sara O'Leary
courtesy, Virginia Athletics
She values developing relationships that go far beyond wins and losses. O'Leary wants her players to be a support system for each other through adversity and share in each other's triumphs.

The holistic approach was shaped partly by tragedy.

As an eighth grader attending a tennis academy in Florida, O'Leary was scheduled to return to her hometown of Littleton, Colo. in late April of 1999 and begin preparing for high school.

The day before O'Leary's flight departed, students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people and wounded 23 at Columbine High before taking their own lives..

The shooting spree at her future school made national headlines for months and helped shape O'Leary's worldview.

"It definitely impacted my life and made me appreciate everything that I have," O'Leary said. "I had friends who were there when it happened. People get so frustrated about a tennis match, but you have to keep it in perspective. You just never know when life can be taken from you."

O'Leary is embarking on a new chapter in her professional life, having been named the women's head coach at the University of Virginia. The former University of North Carolina standout replaces Mark Guilbeau, who resigned in May after 12 seasons.

O'Leary spent the last three seasons as the head coach at Davidson, where she led the Wildcats to three straight winning seasons and was named Atlantic-10 Conference Coach of the Year in 2016.

"I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to work at UVA because I feel like UVA can provide a great experience for the student-athlete athletically, academically and socially," O'Leary said. "I want to see my student-athletes succeed on and off the court and embrace everything UVA has to offer."

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
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