In the span of 15 years, Central region girls’ director Jen Williams has gone from never seeing a girls’ lacrosse game to overseeing a New York State Regional Championships (NYSRC) region. It was a second coaching position that turned into a passion. “Fall of 2006, I had accepted a job at South Jefferson High School and I had never seen a girls’ lacrosse game in my entire life,” Williams said. “I was 26 years old and I was young and vibrant and ready for a challenge. At that point, girls’ lacrosse in true upstate New York wasn’t real prevalent. I said ‘sure’ and I did my homework.”
As she learned and grew, so did the program. Williams took over a fledgling program and used her experience as a basketball coach to build a winning team. The growing pains were there however, on and off the field. “We have three feet of snow on our fields until the beginning of April,” Williams said. “When I first started coaching, I didn’t even get on a field until our first game or scrimmage. Now, I’m a lot smarter in that I schedule a lot of scrimmages and games away in the first part of my season.”
Williams is most proud of the growth within the program from the beginning of her tenure to now. “I was the second coach, the first coach was just a dad that came in and did it,” Williams said. “I’m just proud of the hard work and dedication from the players that made me want to stick with it and grow. It’s not about me, it’s about the kids who develop a love for the game and stick with it. Watching them from kindergarten all the way up through is so rewarding, especially with our conditions.” South Jefferson added a turf field last year for the first time.
In a region that doesn’t get much exposure, Williams is looking for her girls to find the spotlight. “I look at it, for my players, to put themselves out there, get out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves,” she said. “If they think they are one of the top players, they need to go out there and prove that to these coaches that are going to evaluate them and then they get to go onto a stage where they’re not with their teammates or coach because I think that’s what the next step in the process of playing at the next level is.”
Williams joined the NYSRC with a little help from a local college coach but her track record speaks for itself. “I was connected by Liz Beville, the Le Moyne head coach, either she caught wind of it or someone asked her who would be a good director for the Central region and I guess she recommended me,” Williams said. “I like to look at myself as pretty objective but I’ve built a program from nothing all the way up and I’ve exposed my team to the top teams in Section III and we’ve competed with all class levels. I think I have a pretty good reputation amongst the other coaches and I’ve produced some players who have been playing at the next level, at all levels.”
As it is to many, Williams sees the NYSRC as an opportunity for exposure and regional pride and the University at Albany is a great location. “For New York State, one of the top states in girls’ lacrosse, [the importance is] the exposure and the bragging rights of your region, backyard bragging rights,” Williams said. “What a location to go down there and play and be exposed to all the other regions and what a great recruiting tool for all these college coaches to have all these girls in one area.”
When it comes down to it, Williams has her eyes on the prize. “I’m looking forward to, hopefully, picking the best girls to represent our region and winning,” she said.