Jennifer Jacobs jumps onto volleyball court as new head coach
As soon as Jennifer Jacobs met the Augustana volleyball team, she knew she had to work here.
She had just settled in at her job at Augsburg College when she heard about the Augustana job in February.
Jacobs was living in the Twin Cities nearly her whole life, and it was going to take a lot to get her to move to Sioux Falls.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Okay, what is it going to take to get me to move to a new city?’” Jacobs said.
The team and the athletic director, Slade Larscheid, sat in the locker room and asked her questions.
“They sold it. I knew I wanted to be with them.,” Jacobs said.
Setter Jessica Simon felt the same way.
“I really liked her as soon as I met her,” Simon said. “When we interviewed her, she seemed like she’d be a great fit for our team and our program.”
“She’s done a really good job of getting to know our student athletes not just as athletes,” said assistant coach Ellen Andrews. “She really cares about them as people.”
Sports are “how coaches influence other people,” said Jacobs. “I like to really get to know my players, and get to know who they are in and outside of the gym. I think that’s new for them.”
Kassidy Lommori, sophomore outside hitter, said that Jacobs is very different from their previous coach, asking them to grab lunch or a cup of coffee for some one-on-one time.
They had individual meetings with their previous coach, but Lommori said that Jacobs seemed to be more interested in getting to know the players on a more personal level.
Jacobs said she wanted to know about her team’s hopes, dreams, wishes, goals and families. “That was definitely new for them, so I think they were a little bit thrown off originally,” she said,
Though the team has goals in terms of making the Elite Eight and winning the national championship, Jacobs said long-term that she just wants her team to have the best experience possible in volleyball.
“Socially, emotionally, competitively, whatever that means for them—I want that,” Jacobs said. “The wins and losses are important, but they come and go. Every season’s going to be different. Long-term, big picture, I’m more about influencing lives. Every single player that I’ve coached, and every single player that’s in this program now has influenced me too. It goes both ways.”
Jacobs has always had a passion for influencing young people. After graduating from Mankato with a major in psychology and a minor in social work, Jacobs worked at Harding High School in St. Paul as a paraeducator in a special education classroom and as an assistant volleyball coach.
She also worked as a coordinator in a College and Career Center, aiming to help high school students get accepted into college, especially students of color.
“That’s where I realized that I have a passion for just pushing kids to do the most they can do,” Jacobs said.
She eventually became the head coach at Harding High School, before going to get her masters degree in educational administration.
One needs only ask Jacobs about volleyball to discover how much she loves it.
“I like that it’s really, really competitive. People who don’t know good volleyball have no idea how competitive it is,” Jacobs said. “The high athleticism that it takes to perform at a high level in the sport of volleyball—people have no idea. The team has players who can jump and touch 10’3’’. That’s real athleticism. Seeing women at their strongest and fastest, being empowered through the sport—I love that. It’s a fun game. It’s a really fun game.”
When she heard about the Augustana job, she realized that it might be her only chance to be a head volleyball coach at a very competitive level.
“Volleyball has always been the undercurrent in my life,” she said, so she told herself to jump. “This was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse.”