Coach Steve Jennings’ Journey of Volunteering and Growth

Apr 9, 2024 | 2023-2024, Blog

Photo Credit: Olivia Henley, American University

By Laurie Temple, NFHCA Digital Communications Specialist

Manahawkin, NJ – In the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s (NFHCA) ongoing series highlighting exceptional service during National Volunteer Month, our attention is directed towards Steve Jennings, the Head Coach of American University’s field hockey program in Washington, D.C.

One of the most decorated coaches in the country, Jennings will enter his 26th season at the helm of the American University field hockey program in the fall of 2024. With an overall record of 304-165, Jennings was recently celebrated as an NFHCA 300 Victory Club honoree. He was inducted into the 2011 NFHCA Hall of Fame.

On a national level, Jennings’ involvement with the U.S, Women’s National Team spanned 13 years. He was a part of key tournaments including the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing–where the team finished eighth, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro–where we finished fifth, the 2002 World Cup in Perth, Australia–a 10th place finish, the 2006 World Cup in Madrid, Spain–a sixth place finish, two Pan American Games–where the team won a silver and gold medal, and finally the 2016 Champions Trophy in London where the team won bronze.

Before coaching at the highest level, Jennings was among some of the elite field hockey players in the U.S., playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 1991-99. During that time, he participated in over 90 international test matches and was invited to represent the U.S. in the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta where he served as the team’s vice-captain. He also helped the team to a bronze medal at the 1994 Pan American Games in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

We are excited to spotlight Jennings for his dedication to the field hockey community. He has served as an NFHCA Campfire Mentor for the past three years while currently serving on the Field Hockey Forward Project Team and the National Scheduler Ad Hoc Committee. Over the years, Jennings has served on multiple other NFHCA committees. We recently caught up with him and asked him to reflect on his volunteer service.

As a collegiate head coach, Jennings said volunteering within organizations like NFHCA feels like a natural extension of his passion for the sport. When asked about what motivates his involvement, he offered this, “I always come back to the belief that whenever time allows, we need to give back to the sport in whatever ways we can. Whether it’s contributing a little or a lot, every effort makes a difference to our community.”

Reflecting on his involvement, Jennings has dedicated significant time to various committees and work groups within the NFHCA. While he said he couldn’t recall every committee or work group he’s been a part of, he said “It’s been a lot over the years!”

Jennings said that throughout the years that he has volunteered with the NFHCA, he’s not only gained insights into the sport of field hockey but also learned a lot about himself. He shared this about this volunteer experience, “I’ve undoubtedly been inspired by others within the community. Witnessing how many people live, share their passion, and support each other has motivated me to follow their examples.”

He offered that mentorship had played a large and crucial role in his personal development as a coach. When asked about a specific mentor that he was grateful for, Jennings said, “I’m grateful for influential figures like Terry Walsh, former High-Performance Director of USA Field Hockey. Working with Terry was both profoundly positive and full of challenges every day, leading to a period of incredible growth for me.”

In discussing the importance of volunteering and giving back to the field hockey coaching community, Jennings offered the following thoughts about why other collegiate coaches should get involved with the NFHCA, “As a collegiate head coach, my appreciation for the NFHCA extends beyond personal growth. I see it as a critically important organization that supports the growth of players, coaches, and the sport in general. The opportunities to learn, access experts across professional spectrums, and build a sense of community are invaluable.”

When asked to make an elevator pitch for why other collegiate coaches should volunteer within the NFHCA, Jennings said “I emphasize the responsibility to give back for the betterment of future generations. It’s our gift to share after receiving so much from the sport.”

We then asked Jennings to look into his crystal ball of where he sees the NFHCA in five years.

“Looking ahead, I envision the NFHCA at the forefront of creating new programs across different levels of play. Leveraging momentum from events like the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, I see opportunities to deepen partnerships with organizations like USA Field Hockey, thereby enhancing coach education and player development programs.”

As we concluded the conversation, Jennings opened up about his number-one life lesson he he learned from coaching.

“People can do more than they could ever imagine… but are scared by what might happen if they dare. Creating the right environment where they willingly jump into the unknown and learn they can fly is a thrill of the highest order, every single time.”

Thank you, Steve, for your time and dedication to the NFHCA and coaching community.

Register for Ready2Coach with Coach Jennings @ American University

Join Coach Steve Jennings at American University on Friday, August 9, 2024, for the NFHCA’s Ready2Coach clinic. Designed as a platform to enhance your coaching knowledge on and off the field, the NFHCA Ready2Coach clinics provide field hockey coaching education, professional development, and networking opportunities for coaches at all levels. Seasoned coach educators help deliver a positive playing experience for coaches and their teams. Each Ready2Coach clinic features expert clinicians who will share ideas, strategies, drills, techniques, and more. Following the conclusion of the Ready2Coach Regional Clinic, all participants will receive a certificate of completion from the NFHCA. Register Here.

NFHCA Blog Disclaimer

All content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for NCAA compliance or legal advice. The NFHCA recognizes that the accuracy of the content and opinions in this blog may change over time. The blog site may contain links to other websites or content belonging to or originating from third parties. Such external links are not monitored or endorsed by the NFHCA and the NFHCA does not control such external websites or their content. The NFHCA will not be held responsible for the content of any message from external websites or contributing authors.

The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is a nonprofit organization serving field hockey coaches and supporters of the game from across the United States. The mission of the organization is to champion, strengthen, and celebrate field hockey coaches and the game. The NFHCA strives to cultivate and recognize the professional contributions of its membership and to foster and promote the growth of the sport. The NFHCA is responsible for providing a recognizable presence and voice in regard to legislation affecting the sport as well as interscholastic and intercollegiate programs.