Jenn Kessler hails from Washington DC, where she grew up playing soccer at a high level. By eighth grade, she’d had enough. She needed a new challenge and so she joined her friends on the lacrosse field—lucky for us! Just five years later, she was playing midfield for Vanderbilt, where she went on to become captain her senior year. Jenn is optimistic, approachable, passionate and efficient—she knows how to get the job done and get it done well. When she’s not managing Tenacity’s marketing efforts, she coaches with the youth programs and helps with a high school team in Marin. I had the chance to talk to Jenn just last week while her one-year-old was napping. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you get involved with Tenacity?
My freshman year at Vanderbilt, we went to the final four and played against Princeton. I’d heard of Theresa Sherry—she was from a neighboring city and just a legend in our area—and I’d played against her. Full circle, I moved out to San Francisco a year and a half ago and one of my best friends from Vanderbilt grew up with Theresa in Baltimore and re-introduced us. At that point I had been living overseas and was interested in getting back into lacrosse, so this was the perfect fit from a business perspective and it was also something that would involve me in the community here, and this is really one of the first places I can really see my family settling down permanently.
I’ve found that lacrosse is really helpful in getting me involved with the community, and really helping to find a community, when I move to a new place as well.
In my past life, I was living in San Diego and doing a bit of coaching down there. And you know, because I’m from DC and my whole family is there, it was nice to surround myself with families, getting to know these kids and their families while they’re going through a stressful time. We were fairly like-minded—I had been through all that years before and could help them with the recruiting process and all sorts of facets of life, which I absolutely loved. It made me enjoy that community more than I would have otherwise.
How do you feel that Tenacity sets itself apart from similar organizations?
The biggest difference is that Tenacity offers kids the opportunity to learn solid life lessons. We preach about it in a lot of our practices and throughout all of our programs, but I think when you really get down to it, there aren’t a lot of organizations that focus on the betterment of the kid. The sole focus is maybe having their skill level increase, making them more competitive and making them more fit but very few that I’m familiar with prioritize making the kid a better person. That’s probably the biggest thing that drew me to the organization—focusing on these kids in their communities, how they can help out and become better people in addition to becoming better lacrosse players.
I imagine that Tenacity’s approach to multi-sport athletes would resonate with you as well, as someone who burnt out of soccer at a young age.
Totally. I had coaches growing up who wanted me to focus on one sport and told me that I wasn’t committed if I was playing other sports. But as a young kid I was involved with multiple sports, I enjoyed playing multiple sports. It became really difficult for my parents to balance all that, and for me to juggle all that on top of school work and other extracurriculars, but I think from a fitness perspective and for the health of your body, it’s really important for kids to play multiple sports—to gain vision and a sense of the field, to meet people from different walks of life.
If you were to coach yourself as a high schooler, what kind of advice would you give yourself?
Learn how to be extra coachable and put yourself in uncomfortable positions on the field. I was a midfielder but more attack-oriented, and I never felt 100% comfortable on defense. I think I could have been a better all-around player if I had let myself be a little more uncomfortable and pushed myself to learn defensive motions and how to be a big point-person on D as well. Be willing to put yourself in sticky situations and positions you don’t feel you’re the best at.
What really excites you about lacrosse in California?
I think the coolest thing for me is just seeing it grow and become so popular on the west coast. I moved out to California in 2007 and since then lacrosse has trippled in popularity. I think what’s really helped is the colleges that have established programs over the last five, six, seven years and paved the way for people who want to play at the next level, but not necessarily go back to the east coast.
What does tenacity mean to you—the word, not the organization?
I would say being a champion in all facets of life, which might be kind of corny. Representing your family in a positive way and doing all that you can do to shed a positive light on them. Doing everything you can do off the field, outside of practice time, to make yourself competitive and the best player that you can be. Taking the extra time, outside of practices and school work, outside of all the mandatory things, to try to get yourself to that next level. That’s what being a tenacious person is to me—putting in the extra hours and the extra steps to make yourself better.
Written By Courtney Bird
March 10th, 2016