Since coming to BYU women’s soccer, Coach Jennifer Rockwood has transformed the program into a powerhouse, storming onto the national stage with a solid reputation and a recent Elite Eight appearance.
“Winning is the tradition,” athletic trainer Carolyn Billings said. “But more than anything I would say Jenn is a person of extreme integrity. So it’s winning and doing it right. Classy is the way I’d describe her tradition; girls that represent the standard of the church and the university off the field.”
Since her first year in 1995, Rockwood has led the team to nine conference championships, 13 top-25 finishes, four top-10 finishes, a record of 294–87–33 and two Elite Eight appearances. Rockwood ranks No. 6 among active coaches in winning percentage, No. 7 in all-time winning percentage and No. 24 in all-time victories. She has been named coach of the year three times and has coached a number of All-Americans.
In college sports, where coaches play such a large role in recruiting and general operations, there is no question that a great program is a by-product of a great coach. The secret lies in the methods that transform a program from the hunter to the hunted.
One of the many things Rockwood has done to build the program is to be completely dedicated to the BYU women’s soccer program.
“Every little detail she’s aware of, she takes care of and has made sure that it has been done the right way and the best way,” Assistant Coach Chris Watkins said. “She’s willing to put in the time and effort to make sure it’s what’s best for our program and takes care of the girls and — here’s the key — gives us no excuses to lose.”
Rockwood has also built the Cougars’ home field into one of the top soccer venues in the country.
“There’s a thousand different things that she has done and been a part of to build the crowd, but mostly it’s started one-on-one with a kid in camp, or with our girls up promoting the team in the Wilkinson Center for four hours a day,” Watkins said. “Those kind of things gradually build a fan base.”
With ambition and talent on the team’s side, the environment of the Cougars’ South Field has even contributed to the growth in prestige and nationwide popularity of the program.
“She is able to attract great programs to come and play in Provo because they know it will be an incredible atmosphere and a very competitive match,” Nix said. “In fact, in the past year some very prestigious programs have reached out to her asking to play at South Field because it is an experience unlike any other venue in college soccer.”
Another key component of the Cougars’ development has been Rockwood’s ability to recruit. Great players are the foundation of a great program, but finding the right players has been the key to changing the program.
“A lot of it has to do with chemistry, and we’ve just found throughout the years that in recruiting it’s not just important to bring in good players, but it’s important to bring the right players,” Rockwood said. “Our focus right now is to bring in the best kids that want to help the team and come to BYU because it’s BYU.”
With a top-rated coach, a great home field and good recruiting, the Cougars have developed a tradition of excellence. But former player Jennie Smith said there is one more aspect that has made this a special program.
“Wearing a BYU jersey means more than just playing soccer,” Smith said. “Jenn helps her players develop as people and encourages them to do well in school and to grow spiritually. She provides numerous opportunities to do service and do firesides for youth across the country. Jenn has created a program where people respect each other and want to work hard for each other.”