The grass is green and the air is static as fans rush to fill in the bleachers. It’s game night at BYU’s South Field. BYU women’s soccer head coach Jennifer Rockwood sits on the sidelines, ready to lead her team to a championship one victory at a time.
“I never anticipated coaching,” Rockwood said. “But I’ve been fortunate over my whole career and everything I’ve done to just be thrown in and kind of figure it out.”
This year marks her 27th year coaching for BYU and Rockwood hopes to win her fourth consecutive conference championship this year.
Rockwood began coaching for BYU’s club soccer team just one year after graduating from BYU at the age of 22. She had no formal coaching training, but she did have four years as a player for BYU’s club team and one year of experience coaching at a local high school.
Rockwood said she knew enough to want to stick around BYU for a year or two to see where things would go, and she was in the right place at the right time to apply for the head coaching job.
“I was fortunate that some people believed in a young coach who didn’t really know what she was doing but was willing to do her best,” Rockwood said.
She has since coached 11 All-American players at BYU and led her teams to four Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite Eight appearances. She has been named conference Coach of the Year five times, regional Coach of the Year twice and has been awarded numerous other awards in her time at BYU. This season is Rockwood’s 21st year as head coach of the BYU women’s soccer team and the Cougars are currently ranked No. 8 in the nation.
“I’ve been here. I’m doing it and I love it, but it’s a grind,” Rockwood said. “These last few years, I know that if I am going to stay in it, I want to be better. We’ve been fortunate to win championships and go to the tournament, but I want to do more.”
Rockwood has led the Cougars to seven MWC championships and three WCC regular season titles in the past 16 years. But the biggest impact she has had is on those around her, says assistant coach and former BYU player Aleisha Cramer-Rose. Cramer-Rose said she learned so much from Rockwood as a player and has continued to learn as her assistant coach for the past 11 years.
“It says a lot for her to be successful, but it takes a special person to be successful for so long, and I think it is because of her competitiveness and her desire to be her best,” Cramer-Rose said.
Senior defender Sarah Chambers-Gardner also attributes the team’s success to her coach’s competitiveness.
“At practice, she always tries to make sure that we compete, and I think that when we compete we really remember why we love the game,” Chambers-Gardner said.
Rockwood understands that a team is bound to take on some of the characteristics of their coach and tries control her emotions during practice and games so the girls can feel calm and confident when they step onto the soccer field.
“The reality is that as a coach, you can’t do a whole lot once the game starts,” Rockwood said. “I feel a lot of the time I am just a glorified cheerleader.”
Rockwood also stressed the importance of preparing her players off the field to make decisions on the field.
“We preach to our girls be your best in the classroom, and be the best to your family,” Rockwood said. “Be your best socially and spiritually and be your best on the soccer field. It’s as simple as (being) the best that you can be. That’s all we can do.”
Rockwood has built a legacy for BYU women’s soccer by giving it her all and constantly striving to be her best, a legacy that the Cougars hope to continue to build in 2015.