Over the past eight years, Cornell women’s lacrosse has not only received its first-ever NCAA tournament bid, but the team has also even made an appearance in the final four, while also posting an impressive overall .664 winning percentage.
Even with all these accomplishments, the common denominator over that time period — head coach Jenny Graap ’86 — has been quick to point praise in other directions.
“I can only make changes during practice,” Graap said. “During the games, there’s not much I can do. It’s all up to the players then.”
The facts remain, though, that since Graap has returned to her alma mater to become the fifth head coach of women’s lacrosse, her teams have been among the top in the nation.
Having compiled a 73-37 record at Cornell heading into the 2005 season, she has posted the best winning percentage among the program’s coaches, while is also ranked second in total wins. Further, her teams, with a mark of .707, rank seventh nationally in winning percentage since 2000. Graap has also earned individual honors in her tenure with the Red, including the 2002 IWLCA National Coach of the Year award while leading Cornell to the 2002 final four.
Nevertheless, no matter how her team does on the field, Graap is not satisfied with her performance as the team’s coach unless she improves her players outside of the game as well.
“My goal is to stretch beyond lacrosse. I enjoy developing strong and confident women,” she said. “I take pride in showing how hard work and camaraderie pays off — that’s what makes it rewarding to be a coach.”
One part of this mission is allowing her players to emerge as leaders. In the spirit of this, Graap insists that her athletes not only listen to her, but also learn to listen to teammates as well as voice their own advice and opinion.
“I want them to develop their own power,” she said. “I want it to be a two-way street with my players. I want them to help lead and make decisions.”
In fact, Graap believes that learning from her players as well as fellow coaches at Cornell is what makes her job interesting. With a desire to never become bored with one playing style, she works to constantly make adjustments to keep her team playing up to the highest standards.
“I love having so many great colleagues here. The other coaches are such inspiring people that I love learning from them,” Graap said. “I feel like when my job is completely done, I’ll lose enthusiasm. That’s why I’m always looking for new methods of inspiration and play to bring to the team. I don’t think I’ve maxed out yet … I hope I never do.”
Even with her ties to the university, it was not easy for Graap to make the decision to come to Cornell eight years ago. Coaching a brand-new Division I women’s lacrosse team at George Mason, she had led the fledgling program to a national ranking in just four years.
“I had a lot of pride for the team there. It was definitely hard to leave,” Graap said. “But when the job opened up here, I realized I may never get the chance [to come to Cornell] again. It was tough, but it felt right.”
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer