Growing up in Connecticut, new Rock head women’s soccer coach Jessica Griggs knew from an early age that she wanted to devote her life to soccer. Having a father that was a Division I soccer coach didn’t hurt in that pursuit. Griggs’ father, Steve Griggs, was the head coach at Yale University for more than two decades, from 1975-1997, leading the team to three conference championships and three NCAA playoff appearances.
“I was born into a soccer household, my father was a college coach,” said Griggs. “I started playing as soon as I could walk.”
Jessica Griggs was a star in high school at Newark Academy in New Jersey before going on to become a four year starter at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. During her tenure with Dickinson, she became the Red Devils fourth leading goal scorer in team history. She scored 34 goals in her collegiate career, as well as adding 20 assists, which also ranks fourth in school history.
Griggs graduated from Dickinson in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She began her coaching career a few years later when she joined the coaching staff at Shippensburg University as an assistant coach for the women’s team. She helped guide Shippensburg to the PSAC playoffs in 2013 with a 12-6-3 record, where they were eventually knocked out of the tournament by Slippery Rock.
After her success at Shippensburg, she would be hired to coach at Northland College in Wisconsin. This time she would be calling the shots as head coach. Her one and only year with the Lumberjacks was a successful, leading her squad to an 11-9-1 record and an appearance in the conference semifinals.
Griggs became just the third coach in SRU women’s soccer history in March, replacing legendary coach Noreen Herlihy, who accepted a job at Division I Akron University. She is excited for the opportunity to lead such storied program such as Slippery Rock.
“Noreen was someone who people would always respect,” Griggs said. “For me, it’s an honor to take over this program and follow in Noreen’s footsteps.”
Despite spending just one season with Northland, Griggs feels like it was a great experience for her to develop her own style as a head coach. Understanding that the level of soccer was not as intense as one would find in the PSAC, she found success with her team by focusing on the mentality of her players, a concept which she’s brought to Slippery Rock.
“I do a lot of sports psychology for the mental side of the game,” Griggs said. “Some of those ideas worked well at Northland, so we brought them here as well.”
One of the most intriguing aspects that Griggs’ brings to her locker room is a philosophy she created with marbles. In each players locker, there is a jar of marbles with each marble symbolizing how many games each player has remaining in their collegiate career. After each game, the team performs a small ceremony where they each remove one marble and place it in Griggs’ jar. Throughout the year, Griggs’ jar becomes fuller as the player’s jars empty, showing just how far they have come as a team throughout the season.
“Player’s are only guaranteed 20 games a season,” Griggs said. “The idea is that we want out players to keep extending their careers by forcing more games throughout the playoffs. It’s about cherishing every game they play, and applying all that they’ve learned and making the most of it.”
“This was a great opportunity and I previously coached in the PSAC,” said Griggs. “I was familiar with the conference and I love the competitiveness.”