“Love for the Game ” — an Interview with Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jenni Rosenberg

Photo Credit Bob Palermini, www.palermini.com

Highlights into the women’s soccer program, looking forward to next season, about head coach Jenni Rosenburg, and advice for future coaches.

The Siskiyou sat down with the women’s soccer team’s head coach, Jenni Rosenberg. Born and raised in Ashland, Jenni knows her way around the area. And Southern Oregon University was no stranger when she joined the women’s soccer team her freshman year. She then switched it up and transferred out to Merced College for a year, then coached for a year after that. After coaching at Merced, she transferred out again to California State University Stanislaus for two years. Part of why Jenni bounced around was that “I wanted to find somewhere where I was enjoying myself and where I was doing something that I wanted to do.” Eventually, Jenni finished college with a degree in kinesiology and made the switch into a professional coaching career.

Before moving back to Ashland and taking on the head coaching position for the women’s Raiders team, Jenni was coaching at California State University Stanislaus. And it was after an odd turn of events, a phone call from a coach from another team, and a “Hey, I found a job. And I think it’s kind of from where you’re from,” that Jenni found her way back to Southern Oregon University. When Jenni described the story, she said, “I found out about the job on Thursday, interviewed Friday, and I moved here Sunday.” Coming back to her hometown to coach was and still is special for Jenni. She described it as “I think it’s a privilege to be in this position… an absolute privilege. Like, I love being here. I love working with people. I work with all of our coaches here, who are phenomenal people. And our administration is amazing… just coming to work every day is actually like a joy.” 

The enthusiasm for coaching started in high school at 17 years old for Jenni. It was something that she mentions, “fell into [her] life.” And it means so much more than just coaching soccer for Jenni. In the interview, Jenni brought to light the unique part about coaching: the gift of coaching. When asked about meaning and coaching, Jenni excitedly said, “what it means to me is just to be around the women that I get to be around every day. The growth they go through over the four or five years… we recruit them from when they’re sophomores and juniors in high school, and, so, we know them for around seven to eight years. So just watching growth, being a part of that growth, being able to communicate with them, and help them through life is such a privilege.”

Besides the solid building of relationships between coach and player, is the technical side. As the head coach for the program, Jenni is always busy, off-season or not. The women’s team, during the season, could have been found early on the football field practicing as the sun was rising, in the office for individual meetings, or in the weight room. Jenni is also answering phone calls and emails, putting together recruiting materials, and/or financial planning for team travel trips. These are just a few of the responsibilities that Jenni manages as head coach. 

But morning practices were one of Jenni’s favorite moments of this year’s season. Jenni picked her favorite moment as “showing up every morning, being out there every morning, being on the field, watching the sunrise with the team, and watching their energy was like.. we have a pretty spectacular place where we get to play.” There cannot always be beautiful sunrises in the sports world, however. 

When asked about “the biggest challenge you face as a coach,” Jenni answered, “I think that the biggest challenge that we’ve gone through is just building the culture of who we are as a program, just who we are every day, who we show up to be, and you know, every year, we grow into a different team. Every year, that culture is a little bit different. And it’s always trying to make that group the most cohesive and the most trusting in each other… I think that the biggest challenge is really creating a team culture. The whole group is on the same page, fighting the same battle and never fighting against each other.” For Jenni, the women’s soccer team is much more than wins and losses, practices, and time in the weight room. It’s about building a culture and cultivating strong relationship bonds between teammates.

Transitioning into advice for future coaches, Jenni gave some really great insights. A few things she said: “be patient. Be open to learning always. As we go through decades of coaching, every generation is different …it’s never the same. You never get the same group of kids, you never get the same group of women, you never get the same group of anything, really. It’s forever changing, so being willing to grow, being willing to recognize that change and work with it. For me, that was the biggest thing.”

The season didn’t end the way the women’s team wanted, but Jenni and the team are already preparing for next year and spring season. Currently, the women Raiders are taking the time to focus on their academics. But once winter break ends, the cleats are coming back on. They’ll be in the gym for weights and conditioning three times a week, and they’ll be on the field going through drills. Looking forward to next year and the spring, Jenni commented, “We’re graduating a big group out of our program, and so it’ll be a change … but we’re getting some pretty talented kids next year. So, I look forward to seeing this group of seniors really be able to absorb and add them to the team, to teach them the way, grow again, and become more cohesive and competitive.”

Ending the interview in Siskiyou fashion:

M: You have your own late-night talk show, who do you invite as your first guest?

J: Bobby Heiken.

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