Jene Baclawski

Jené Baclawski


Technical Director | Head Coach
South Texas Youth Soccer Association | St. Kitts and Nevis FA

          


FIELD  
Sport Development & Sport Performance

JOINED  
2014 | 2019



Please share a bit of background about yourself.


To say that I love sports is a complete understatement! I grew up always running around somewhere as a multi-sport athlete competing in soccer, basketball, tennis, cross-country, and track. I had a hard time deciding which sport I’d eventually pursue so chose to compete at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, because I could play both basketball and soccer. I graduated and went on to play soccer on several semi-professional teams and started my coaching career in 1998. I’ve been fortunate to serve as a club coach, director of coaching, college coach, technical director, and most recently as the national team coach of St. Kitts and Nevis’ senior women’s program.

I have a Master’s in Gender Studies where my research explored Title IX and have continued on to pursue Doctoral Degrees in Sports Studies and Kinesiology both at the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina Greensboro. I currently serve as the Technical Director of the South Texas Youth Soccer Association and am the only woman to hold this position within US Youth Soccer. I also love teaching coaching education courses for U.S. Soccer and supporting coaches on their journey to improve themselves.

I’m a daily dog walker, regular runner, pop culture junkie, and aspiring vegetarian.



How would you describe your job?


Being a State Technical Director is never boring and that’s one of the things I enjoy most about my role. As a Technical Director, I am responsible for leading the technical operations and programs for all player and coach development initiatives in South Texas. This includes our player development pathways from grassroots to elite ODP, coaching education, and TOPSoccer, as well as serving as an advisor to leagues, member outreach, and league structures.

I work closely with our Board of Directors, Executive Director, and office staff to grow our existing programs to ensure we are creating positive environments for all coaches and players across the state. The opportunities to connect with club leaders to support our state’s coaches, players, and parents are endless. South Texas is one of the largest and most demographically diverse members of U.S. Soccer so the needs and opportunities can vary greatly in each city and region. I’m proud to have served in this role for over six years and that I get to help bring ideas and programs back to Texas to help grow the game. I am lucky to have been able to represent South Texas in many committees and working groups as well as to have worked with St. Kitts & Nevis during the last two years. I enjoy the challenge of spending each day finding new and innovative ways to help impact the game.



What skills do you use every day?


My role requires a wide range of skills each day. Not only do I have to have technical knowledge about the game itself, but I have to be a good communicator, listener, problem-solver, and leader. While my day-to-day tasks shifted during 2020 due to working from home, the responsibilities of connecting with others have become even more important. Some of the specific skills I use are actually ones that you might learn in other fields typically not related to sports coaching. For example, customer service skills are key as I work for our state’s coaches, players, and members. I have to ask the right questions and actively listen so that I can learn more about what challenges they face and respond with ideas or programs that specifically meet their unique needs. I am also asked to speak publicly, leading meetings, presentations, or webinars due to my position as a technical director and coach. Both verbal and non-verbal communication skills and the confidence to be in front of a large group of people are things I continue to work on.

Like all directors, using technology is key, and administrative skills and other managerial processes help me lead my staff and work with our board and Executive Director. I manage budgets, expenses, and regularly update our strategic plan. As an instructor, I spend a lot of time preparing for each day’s course interactions, intended outcomes, and providing feedback to coaches. Being a technical director requires a high level of experience with the sport but also soft skills, business skills, and thinking two to three steps ahead all the time.



What is one piece of advice you wished someone had told you before starting this career path?


I wish that someone would have told me to treat everyone around me as teammates and not the competition. Like most players who struggle with what they’ll do once the opportunity to play the game at a high level ends, I struggled early on in my career with how I would stay connected to the game and what my role in that process would look like. Ironically, I had never intended on being a coach (I was going to go to law school – sorry, mom), but coaching soccer just came naturally and seemed like an intuitive way to give back to the game.

However, I think due to my stubbornness, independent nature and, at times, over-the-top competitiveness, as a young coach, I thought I needed to control everything and do things on my own. I rarely asked others for help even though I had experienced coaches and mentors around me who could have helped me grow. Even as a college coach and director, I didn’t delegate to others or seek assistance because I didn’t want to show my faults. I feared being seen as an impostor and that I’d lose the credibility I worked hard to maintain. I also felt that the pressure of being one of the only women in what is still a male-dominated field. This meant that I needed to, at all times, be my best so I didn’t let others down. What I realize now is that while this might have been some sort of tactic in self-preservation, I wasted a lot of time and years being stagnant in my career and professional development. If I had leaned on my colleagues, peers, and mentors for support, advice, and ideas, I believe I would have developed earlier and more deeply into a more well-rounded professional. 

I'm very grateful that what I thought would be something temporary ended up taking me on an amazing journey for the last 20+ years where I have coached so many amazing players, met great people, and traveled all around the world.