Technically, Jessica Barnett can tell you she goes to Yale.
But the Handsworth grad will quickly clarify, “Just kidding, I just work there.”
Although she suggests working there may not be as impressive as being a student at the Ivy League Connecticut university, it’s still an accomplishment. Since September, Barnett has been an assistant field hockey coach at Yale and reports, “It’s a pretty cool place to be.”
Last month, Stevie Wonder attended the graduation convocation, receiving an honorary degree from the music school there. “You get some pretty important people on this campus from time to time, which is very cool,” says Barnett.
A former Canadian National Team player and All-American at the University of Iowa, Barnett was a three-time athlete of the year when she attended Handsworth Secondary.
She went on to play for both the junior and senior national teams, winning bronze at the 2013 Pan American Cup, and earned 41 international caps playing for Canada.
She started all 77 games while attending Iowa, and won the Hawkeyes’ MVP award three times, ending her career there with the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award.
“I had such a positive experience while participating as a student athlete at the University of Iowa, I felt that I had something to give to student athletes now,” says Barnett. “I’m hoping that I can help give them an experience like (the one) I was fortunate enough to have.”
Graduating with a degree in communications and a minor in sports studies, Barnett says she wants to pursue coaching as a career. It seems like a natural transition for the former midfielder/back, who didn’t want to give up field hockey altogether.
“I think it’s just something I put so much energy and time into. It is really a passion of mine to be in sport and to be working with people who share that passion,” she says.
Previous to working at Yale, Barnett was a volunteer coach at Iowa and also coached at the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club. She says the switch from high-level player to coach has been “fine” but she admits, “It’s hard sometimes because you want to go out there and play.”
She adds: “It has definitely taught me to be very patient, and not everyone is going to understand things the way you understand them.”
This season, the Bulldogs jumped to 7-10, an improvement over the previous two seasons, which were both 3-14.
“I’d say we’ve definitely made some huge strides going forward. The girls are more on board than ever and things are going in a good direction. And we’re hopeful that we can compete for an Ivy championship next year,” says Barnett.
She calls the players quintessential student athletes.
“It’s interesting because they’re not on scholarship, so if they didn’t want to show up to practice on a Monday technically there isn’t anything we could do about it,” she explains. “You really know that they want to be out here and they’re doing it because they want to be, which is pretty cool.”
Barnett says it’s rewarding to watch the team succeed.
“I think I can so closely relate to what they’re going through,” she says. “And to see the joy on their faces when we win the game or when they do something well, that’s the best part.”
The former Capilano resident says she’s enjoying her time in the U.S. and especially being in such a competitive athletic environment.
“It’s something I kind of live for.”