Her first season began with only two seniors on the varsity roster – plus one on junior varsity – and ended with a 6-8 record. Her last season began with just three seniors total and ended 7-8.
It almost seemed Jen Moore had planned to leave Bayfield High School girls soccer in nearly the same shape she’d found it.
Of course, practically anyone who’s ever played against, matched wits against or merely watched a Moore-led team knows that’s not remotely true; the next level wouldn’t be calling her name if she had.
And she definitely wouldn’t have recently accepted an offer if she had.
Tuesday night inside the BHS Cafetorium, it was hard for the longtime Wolverine figurehead – who debuted as skipper March 9, 2007, with a 2-1 overtime home win over Ridgway – to restrain tears while speaking at her last end-of-season team banquet, as well as for her players to listen while knowing 2020 will begin with a new bench boss.
Speaking much more composed, though at times again misty-eyed Thursday morning, the final day of 2018-19 classes at BHS, from her long-occupied office, Moore confirmed the realization of a dream: Her first collegiate coaching gig.
“I’m headed to Cochise College, which is a junior college down in southern Arizona about an hour and a half south of Tucson,” she stated. “I’m going to be an assistant coach, which is what I prefer just because I think I have a lot of learning to do at the college level.
“It’s going to be a big change. I’ve been (in Colorado) for 17 years now, and I’ve been coaching here for 13 seasons, so I’m definitely going to miss it. If I could make a living just off coaching Bayfield girls soccer, then I would. But, unfortunately, it requires me to teach, and that’s not where my passion is, and at some point you have to make some sacrifices, take some risks to follow your dream.”
Having taken Bayfield to the Class 3A state playoffs nine times, a 2019-ending 4-1 regular-season loss to 2A force Crested Butte Community School dinged Moore’s career record ever so slightly to 116-68-15 overall and 97-34-13 against all 3A/2A Southwestern League opposition (but still 88-28-12 in 3A SWL action). That occurred May 4, two days after a 1-0 senior night win over Pagosa Springs, and three nights after Moore finalized a decision no fewer than six years in construction.
“I just graduated with my master’s degree (Master of Science in Human Performance & Physical Education) with a coaching emphasis, which I’ve been working on for the last six years. One class at a time, paying for it as I go,” she said, of last weekend’s achievement at Adams State University in Alamosa. “And I started that with a goal in mind to coach college soccer someday and thinking that would help.”
On a résumé, sure. But on the pitch...
“All these coaches at all these schools I’ve been applying for, they’re requiring four to five years of collegiate experience, and I just don’t have that.”
A former Fort Lewis College defender and 2007 FLC alumna, Moore had applied for the Skyhawks’ job a year ago.
“Last year, I applied for Fort Lewis just hoping since they knew me they’d give me an opportunity,” she said. “And then, obviously, Damo (Damian Clarke) came back – I by far think he’s the best man for the job – and it kind of made me realize I need to go somewhere and get some experience. High-school experience isn’t really getting me anywhere, even though I love it.”
Moore’s contributions at Bayfield were recognized by her peers.
“Jen made a difference at Bayfield,” said Pagosa Springs head coach Lindsey Kurt-Mason, the undisputed dean of SWL coaches. “The teams we met under her were well organized and were passionate about the game. Jen understands and can teach both the technical and tactical sides of soccer, and in doing that raised the level of play in our league. I wish her the best of luck.”
Since Moore’s arrival and the Wolverines’ success, soccer has found its stride in the Bayfield community.
“While soccer has really taken off in this country as far as popularity, Jen was always ahead of that curve in terms of the knowledge, approach and enthusiasm she brought to the program,” BHS athletic director Derrick Martin said. “She put Bayfield girls soccer on the map a long time ago, and the program has never looked back.”
Moore said three years ago a position out in Utah was offered to her, but having recently gotten married, she felt neither the timing nor the job, which also required a teaching commitment, was right.
Most recently, NCAA Division III member Eureka (Illinois) College offered her the top spot, but “the pay was really, really low to uproot my life.”
“This one came around about the same time (as Eureka),” she continued, referring to the Cochise option for which she’ll officially report on Aug. 1. “The pay’s better – it’s not great, not what I’m making now – but... It’s going to be baby steps to get to where I need to be, and this is just the first step.
“I’d probably applied for 50, 60 jobs since October, and I’ve heard back from five. That’s when I went, ‘It may not be the perfect opportunity.’ Everybody was like, ‘If you’re not 100% set on it, maybe it’s not the right time,’ but I think I had to just find a good enough opportunity so that I can build up to that perfect opportunity.”
At the very least, it will definitely expand and push Moore’s coaching limits.
Headquartered in Douglas, Arizona, Cochise played an all-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference schedule in Fall 2018 and finished an eighth-place 5-10-4 after dropping three consecutive matches to end the season.
From Sao Paulo, Brazil, freshman midfielder Leticia Seabra earned First Team All-ACCAC and All-NJCAA Division I, Region I distinction, though the Apaches finished two places out of the six-team Region I Tournament.
At Cochise College, Moore will work under new head coach Bobby Peters, brought in after one season at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, where he’d overseen both the Trapper women and men and led the gents to the Region IX Tournament semifinals.
“Obviously, I’m a big believer in having an assistant coach that supports me, and along those same lines I want to make sure I support everything he’s doing, his philosophy,” Moore said. “So, I asked a lot of those questions in the interviews, and when I met him, we sat down, had lunch and a great casual conversation, and I could just see us working together really well.
“The responsibilities are to recruit, to watch game film, to plan practice sessions, and when I compare that to my responsibilities as a teacher there’s just no question in my mind that’s what I want to do. I feel like there’s no way I could not enjoy it.”
Moore, who is likely to also be an area club-team coach, indicated living apart from family will be a challenge. Step-children Shane and Mattie will continue attending Bayfield, with Shane to be a senior this fall and Mattie a sophomore, but finding a position relatively close to La Plata County made her choice less painful.
“There was a lot of decisions to make, you know: Talking to my family, talking to other coaches, to (assistant coach Josh Kitchen), and just trying to see what everybody thinks,” she said. “And I really think it’s going to be a really cool opportunity. It’s 10 months. I can come back to Colorado and recruit because I have connections here, I can come run camps through the college here, I still get holidays off and plan to come back and forth. It’s an easy hop from Durango to Phoenix, so I’m not too worried about it.
“I’m starting a new career, moving to someplace I’ve never lived. I’ve never really been down there, and I don’t know anybody down there. All those things are intimidating, but at the same time kind of make it exciting and fun. I’m going to build all-new relationships. And while I’ll never forget the girls and the relationships I have here, I’m going to have that again. So, I think that’s what makes me feel like it’s OK to go.”
Martin said it will be tough to replace Moore.
“Selfishly, I’m sad to lose such a great coach and, even more, a wonderful mentor to the young women here at BHS. She will be greatly missed,” said Martin, who noted he and Moore (then Jen Zelinski) both began teaching in the Bayfield School District in Fall 2006. “But I know this is a dream of hers, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her to start this next chapter of her life. I’m confident we’ll be seeing/hearing her name in the years to come.”
TRUSTING THE PROCESS
While guiding the Wolverines and also instructing in Bayfield’s physical education department, Moore found herself also trying to fit the Cochise hiring process into her busy schedule.
“Back in April, they contacted me based on my application and liked what they saw. So I did a video interview and apparently did really well at that, so then they paid and flew me down there to do an in-person interview,” she recalled. “I spent two days down there and they asked me to run a coaching session for 10 of their girls. So I did that, and then – I think it was two days later – they called and offered me the position. Something impressed them, I guess.
“It was kind of tough. I was trying to come up with drills that could kind of work for eight or 12 players, or nine players, or eleven players. So, I guess that’s part of being a coach, being able to adjust and think on your toes. I had some things in mind before I went down there, and, yeah, I ran some of the basic stuff that I like to run here, and let it run into some more complicated drills. But I think the girls seemed really receptive. Before I went down there, I was really scared of what it would be like, scared to leave my team, but when I got down there and met the team I was like, ‘This is going to be OK.’”