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Faculty & Staff Stories in Fine Print, the Magazine of Rowland Hall

Senior Jordan Crockett Commits to Playing D1 Soccer for the University of Denver

On November 13, surrounded by family and friends, Rowland Hall senior Jordan Crockett did something she had been dreaming about for years: she signed the National Letter of Intent confirming her decision to play soccer at the University of Denver (DU). 

A dream come true: Jordan signing her National Letter of Intent at her November 13 signing party.


Jordan is one of eight women who signed onto DU’s 2020 roster this month. As a Division I school—the highest level of intercollegiate sports sanctioned by the NCAA—DU recruits some of the strongest high-school athletes from around the country. Jordan brings to the team years of high-level experience in club soccer, where she has played on several Utah teams: Black Diamond Soccer Club, Utah Soccer Alliance, and Celtic Premier FC, which won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in July.

While club players often choose to play at that level alone, rather than on high school teams, Jordan opted to play at Rowland Hall because of its close-knit community and for an extra, athletics-focused layer of college counseling and preparation. Bobby Kennedy, who coached Jordan for four years, explained that Rowland Hall was committed to helping her achieve her goal of playing D1 soccer. To do this, the school didn’t just help to hone her technical skills; her coaches, teachers, and college counselor also helped Jordan identify her top schools and develop the academic skills necessary to secure a spot on their teams—and, ultimately, in their classrooms.

Jordan’s high-caliber skills don’t come with an inflated ego: she’s a recognized leader among her peers, in part, because she’s fully committed to Rowland Hall’s team-first, family-like atmosphere, Bobby said.

“When we asked all the kids where they would prefer to play, she would write down, ‘Anywhere on the field but goalie,’” he explained. “You might think a player that’s reached her level of prominence in club, and is the classification’s MVP, would say, “I want to play center midfield,’ or ‘I want to play up front where I can score goals.’ By saying ‘I’ll play anywhere,’ you can read into the fact that she’s putting the team first.”

In addition to her strong leadership, Bobby said, Rowland Hall will remember Jordan as a consummate student-athlete, and probably the most impactful player in the last 10 years. 

“She’s literally a once-in-a-decade player,” he said.

Update November 26, 2019: For the second time, Jordan Crockett has been named 2A MVP. Read the story in the Deseret News. Congratulations, Jordan!


We asked Jordan to share more about her experience and how it feels to commit to DU. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about your athletic journey.

I started playing soccer when I was two, with my mom. I wasn’t really focused on soccer at first—I was a gymnast until I was around six. Then I decided I just wanted to play soccer, and that’s when I started playing club competitively. Once I got to Rowland Hall, my freshman year was a little bit rocky, adjusting to a level I wasn’t really used to playing at. But to build a relationship with people who are in the same community as me every single day was super special. The next three years we won the state championship, which was amazing. And with club, my junior year, I was also able to win the national championship. We are the first team from Utah to ever do that, so that was pretty amazing too.

Why was it important for you to continue playing at the high school level, even while you were involved with club soccer?

I didn’t want to let go of the community; I wanted to stay throughout my four years. It was a different level, but taught me how to lead in a different way and how to share an experience with everyone else. It helped me understand that I’m building family relationships with all of my teammates.

What does it mean to you to be recruited by a D1 school for the sport you love?

Relieved is one of the main things. I was recruited by many D1 schools, and to go to Denver is honestly a blessing. I remember 13-year-old me taking Polaroid pictures of my Denver soccer shirt and posting them on my wall. It’s really a dream come true.

How were you able to balance academics and athletics while at Rowland Hall?

My teachers, the principals, and the whole staff at Rowland Hall are so helpful and really easy to communicate with about being a high-level athlete and having to balance academics. I think being able to have a community that’s so accepting, and having them support me through my whole athletic career, was super helpful.

What is the top skill you gained at Rowland Hall that you'll be taking with you to Denver?

Probably the willingness to be open to new things. Rowland Hall has given me a lot of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s really cool that Rowland Hall is a community that is able to teach you new things every single day.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to be on the national team—that’s one of my biggest hopes and dreams. But if not, then I see myself in a job I enjoy, with my family and friends supporting me, and just enjoying life— trying to take each day a step at a time and live with no regrets.

Athletics

More Than Champions: Girls Soccer Team Becomes Family During Undefeated Season

The statistics from Rowland Hall's championship girls soccer season are impressive. They ended the season with an 18-0 record. They scored 168 goals, a new state record, and surrendered just six—three of which were in the championship game. Nearly every member of the team, including the goalkeeper, scored at least once during the season. And even the junior varsity team only lost one game this fall.

The season-long dominance by the team doesn't mean award-winning Head Coach Bobby Kennedy is ready to use the word "perfection," though. Instead, he said he found this year to be deeply satisfying. He likes to emphasize the team philosophy: "Rowland Hall—where winning is cultured, skills are tested, bonds are formed, and memories are made." He also pointed out, "The school's mission statement ends with personal excellence, and I believe if we ask that of students in the classroom, we ask that of them on the playing field." He reminded his athletes of this all season, and they followed suit.

Coach Bobby Kennedy likes to emphasize the team philosophy: "Rowland Hall—where winning is cultured, skills are tested, bonds are formed, and memories are made." He also pointed out, "The school's mission statement ends with personal excellence, and I believe if we ask that of students in the classroom, we ask that of them on the playing field." He reminded his athletes of this all season, and they followed suit.

Seniors summarized their season as exciting, memorable, successful, and record breaking. When co-captain Airam Perez mentioned the word "family," they all nodded in agreement. In fact, partway through the season, Airam and Caeli Kennedy—another of the team's captains—changed the cheer coming out of group huddles from "RoHo!" to "Family!" According to Caeli, the bonds this season grew even stronger than she expected, and much stronger than in her previous three years on the team.

Bobby attributed the team chemistry to a good mix of veteran players and young talent. "Everyone understood their roles and accepted them," he said. "Some seniors knew they weren't going to be starters, and believed that being part of the team was more important than the minutes they spent on the field. They all bought into the program."

For a team that didn't face much competition during the season—largely due to a state reclassification that shifted weaker or less experienced teams into the 2A Region—they were still tested at times. A few players suffered injuries or illnesses that required them to miss games, but maintaining motivation posed the bigger challenge. It's a winner's problem: you don't have to be as sharp as you could be, in order to beat less-talented opponents. Bobby never let his players off the hook, though: from the beginning of practice in late July through the championship game, he counseled them that their hard work and daily efforts were an investment in the future.

The players appreciated the rituals in practice and warm-up that helped them stay ready for competition, and the bonding activities such as "question of the day"—"What are you looking forward to this weekend?"; "What are your goals for the next game?"that kept the mood light. The student-athletes have enormous respect and admiration for their coaches. BK—as the athletes affectionately call their head coach—infrequently offered praise, but that only made it more meaningful when it came. Savannah Price hailed his second-to-none knowledge of the game, and his teaching style: "No one in this community knows more about soccer than BK, so having him as a coach was really valuable."

The highlight for players and coaches was, of course, defeating rival Waterford in the state championship game by a score of 6-3. While they may not have been highly motivated to play every opponent during the regular season, that game was different. "Championship teams have a way of igniting themselves when it's most meaningful," Bobby said. And while the players experienced nerves heading into the title game, they are proud of how they responded to pressure and achieved their goals.

"No matter who you play, a championship game will be nerve-wracking," Caeli said, "and the fact that we were playing our rivals added extra pressure." Goalkeeper Allison Bagley—the third co-captain on the team—said unlike earlier games, that final match tested her: "A lot of the games, I wasn't that active, but in the Waterford game, it was very different." Meg Janes said her nerves carried through halftime, when their lead of 1-0 was not as large as usual. But the coaches and players all agreed that in the second half, they settled in and started to play their style. "I started to realize, 'We got this now,'" Meg said with a smile.

Playing with your really good friends is always an awesome experience.—Lauren Bikhazi

Lauren Bikhazi cited the disappointing loss to Waterford in last year's championship game as another reason this victory felt so satisfying. Plus, the career seniors had secured their second state title—they bookended their high school soccer careers with championships in 2014 and 2017. The team listened to "We Are the Champions" on the bus ride home, and celebrated over a shared meal that evening.

As happy and proud as the Winged Lions were to end their undefeated season with a victory over Waterford, some expressed mixed emotions. Airam voiced sadness in knowing she'd played her last high school game. In a chorus of agreement, the teammates identified what they'd miss most: the coaches and the relationships they've built. "Playing with your really good friends is always an awesome experience," Lauren said. When recalling funny mishaps on the field or inside jokes, the seniors shared laughs and whispers, making it clear that the memories made this year will stay with them for a long time.

Bobby can't help but look ahead to next year, especially given that this team had nine seniors, the largest number of departing players in his tenure as coach. "Our seniors led the team, and it wasn't just about talent," he said. "Around here, you know what is asked of you, and you stay prepared to answer the call." No matter how the roster shapes up in the future, the demand for personal excellence will remain an integral part of the soccer program—and chances are, that will lead to more success.

 

State Coach of the Year award

 

Update March 6, 2018: United Soccer Coaches in February 2018 named Bobby Kennedy the 2017 Utah Coach of the Year among girls' teams at independent high schools. Congrats to Coach Kennedy!

Athletics

Bobby Kennedy Named 2A Coach of the Year
By Kendra Tomsic, director of athletics
 
Bobby Kennedy, girls soccer head coach, was recently nominated by Region 14 and subsequently selected by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) awards committee as a recipient for a 2015 Distinguished Service Award as the 2A Coach of the Year, not simply for soccer, but for all 2A sports.
 
As a soccer coach with 25 years experience including playing both collegiately and professionally, Bobby understands the game extremely well and has a true gift for passing that knowledge along to his athletes. He uses a style that seems to bring out the best in each one of them. Bobby is demanding yet patient and encouraging, and his efforts over the past 12 years have brought Rowland Hall a state runner-up trophy for the girls team in 2006, the State 2A Girls Championship in 2014, a Region 14 title this season, and a berth in the State 2A Girls semi-finals this year. He led the boys soccer team to a number-one ranking in 2007 and to back-to-back Boys 2A State championships in 2008 and 2009. Bobby is a superior role model and well-rounded coach who cares more about the heart and the effort of his players than about accomplishments, recognition, or trophies. These are the characteristics that led the UHSAA to select him for this prestigious award.
 
The UHSAA Distinguished Service Award was initiated in 1987 to honor individuals for their service and contributions to high school activities. It is the association’s way of saying thank you on behalf of the many lives that honorees have touched during their careers.
 
Bobby will be honored at an awards luncheon in January. Congratulations, BK, on an honor well earned and certainly well deserved! The Rowland Hall community is proud of you.

Athletics

You Belong at Rowland Hall