After a star-studded playing career at UC San Diego, that included a pair of NCAA Soccer Championships, Kristin Jones has spent the past eight years on the sidelines as an assistant to her Head Coach, Brian McManus. During that span, UCSD has racked up a 126-29-18 record and been a regular post-season participant. McManus says that Jones has transferred her best playing skills to the coaching ranks. "Kristin's got great vision," says McManus, whose teams have captured seven NCAA titles in his 25 seasons at UCSD. "She sees things so quickly-before others do-and can make adjustments on the fly, the same as she did while playing. She's been a huge factor in our success. Over the years, coaching women has become a little more sophisticated and having her here, particularly with her credentials as an All-American, benefits us a great deal." An 81-goal scorer as a collegian and holder of a Human Development degree from UCSD, the Oceanside native took time recently to talk about her career, the Triton program and the sport of soccer.
Q-After playing four years at UC San Diego, you essentially went straight into coaching under Brian McManus. When did you know you wanted to make a career out of coaching soccer?
wouldn't let me leave! I began
coaching club my senior year at UCSD and I loved it from the start. I was fortunate enough to have all the
pieces fall into place and allow me to work my way up the ranks quickly in
college and club coaching. At
first I did it as more of a hobby, but the more I coached, the more I knew that
it was my passion.
Q-Which do you like better, playing or coaching? Why?
JONES-I love coaching, but I still consider myself a player. There is something to be said for controlling what happens in a game. Even though soccer is the epitome of a team sport, when I play, I try to have as much of an impact as possible on the game. I play as much as my schedule allows but afterwards my body does everything it can to remind me I am definitely a coach and not a player anymore.
Q-You were a four-year starter at UCSD, won four CCAA Championships, reached the NCAA Final Four three times and won CCAA Player of the Year honors as a senior. Early on, what was the most difficult part of your transition to the coaching ranks? What was one thing that surprised you most about being a coach?
JONES-Early on, I had a hard time not being overly passionate. I have so much pride in the UCSD Women's Soccer program that I took every little thing personally. Ultimately, I enjoyed my four years so much that I wanted everyone to leave feeling as great about their experience.
I was very surprised at how emotionally invested coaches are in their teams. When I played I knew my coaches cared, but I didn't realize it was to this extent. The time and energy every coach in this department puts into their teams is amazing.
Q-What do you remember as the highest and lowest points of your Triton playing career?
JONES-That's a hard question. I remember some of the games I played at UCSD like it was yesterday. Every time we beat Dominguez Hills was great! One of my favorite experiences would have to be the NCAA Championship my freshman year when we won with seconds left on the clock and it was our first year in Division II. To go from Division III to Division II and win a national championship might be something that no other program is ever able to do.
But the best experience would have to be the 2001 NCAA Championship we won on our home field, in front of thousands of fans, against a previously undefeated team. Our team had to be the only group in the country who thought we would win that game, but we had so much confidence in each other we won 2-0 to repeat as national champions.
The low had to be the way I ended my career. We suffered a heartbreaking loss in the national semi-finals in overtime. To make things worse, the opposing coach came up to me before the press conference and apologized for "stealing the game from us". I know he was trying to make me feel better but at the time it just made things worse and it is something I will never forget.
Q-As a player and coach, what are a few of the most important things you've learned from Head Coach Brian McManus? In your opinion, what makes him so successful?
JONES-What Brian taught me as a player and a coach go hand-in-hand. The players laugh at me when I say it, but he taught me the importance of the "little things". A lot of teams and programs have great players, but talent only takes you so far. You have to do the things that your opponent isn't. Whether it is ice baths, curfews, or eating at the right times, Brian forces his players to do things right.
Brian is a machine. He has created a program that ultimately runs itself due to the amount of success he has had to date. He cares about the game, the sport, but more importantly, he cares about each of the kids like they are family. The best part is, they know it. He demands a lot out of the girls, but they thrive in the setting he provides. He instills a sense of pride in each of them where they are proud to wear the UCSD jersey.
Q-What's the biggest difference you notice in the UCSD player of today compared to your collegiate teammates? What commonalities do both possess?
JONES-Biggest difference is they are young. But seriously, they are better players technically then what us old ladies were. The sport has grown so much over the years and the game itself has forced these kids into being elite athletes.
For the most part, we are the same breed. Soccer players tend to be passionate, superstitious, loud , hard on themselves and CRAZY. Whether they are 20, 30, or 40 we all are the same. It is funny to compare some of the girls now to my teammates. Whether it is the way they play or act, some are so similar to the ladies I played with.
Q-How did you get started playing soccer? What other sports did you play as a youngster? What ultimately made soccer your sport of choice?
JONES-I was very lucky to have parents who encouraged me to participate in a lot of sports. My soccer career began at age four and just played because that's what kids did. Neither of my parents played the game but both have grown to become fans. I played competitive basketball and softball throughout high school and had offers to play collegiately, but when it came down to it, I obviously chose soccer. While I enjoyed the other sports, I could never imagine not playing soccer.
Q-You also coach at La Jolla High School and with the Nomads club program. What is your ultimate objective professionally?
JONES-I enjoy club and high school because of the relationships you develop with the kids and families. I've met very good people along the way. Watching the kids develop and establish a love for the game is very rewarding.
The different levels of club, high school and college keeps me sane. Each team is so different and presents a different challenge. I want to continue to learn and grow as a coach and do what I love for the rest of my life. I can't imagine doing anything else.
Q-How surprised have you been at the growth of soccer in the United States?
JONES-I'm not surprised at all. There are so many kids playing and so many ex-players now coaching that it keeps a good cycle going. I am happy to see the exposure the sport has gotten especially during major international tournaments. ESPN covering every game of the European Championships the entire month of June is a good example. Kids watching those games will grow as players and I am glad they are given the opportunity.
Q-In your estimation, what is the key to moving the U.S. to the next level internationally on both the men's and women's sides?
JONES-Establishing a plan. If you look at some of the best soccer countries in the world, they have a system. I think we need to figure out who we are. Whether it is defensive, offensive, athletic, we just need to play within our strengths. We also need the support of our country. England is a perfect example. When you talk to the English fans, they will be the first to say they didn't play well. But win, lose, or tie, they will be at the next game cheering just the same.
Q-You recently traveled to Europe to see the final rounds of the UEFA Champions League Tournament. What was that like? What are the things you think you'll remember most about that trip?
JONES-It was an unforgettable experience. Germany was amazing. The culture and history was beautiful but just as beautiful in my opinion was the passion for the game. The whole city was decked out weeks before. Everywhere you looked, there was something soccer related. Soccer is their life and their passion was indescribable. I am so lucky to have experienced it first hand.
Q-Last year's UCSD team won the CCAA South Division title but loses a large number of high quality seniors. What are your expectations from the 2012 Tritons?
JONES-I think every year I have coached at UCSD has been a "rebuilding year". Though we did lose some great players and teammates, our roster is still loaded with experience. The seniors did a great job of getting us back to our winning ways. There are still plenty of players on the roster with Final Four experience and I am confident they will do everything they can to get us back there. Knowing these girls, anything less than a Final Four will be considered a bad season.
Q-Can you name one or two players you think are poised for breakthrough seasons next fall?
JONES-Though she had a great season last year, I think we have only seen the beginning of what Cassie Callahan has to offer. She won't accept a "sophomore slump".
Also, I am banking on the fact that Hayley Johnson will break her assist record.
Overall, our junior class has the desire to be the best. They all will play an important role in winning us championships.
Q-Outside of soccer, what are some of your interests? What would people be surprised to find out about you?
JONES-Well I don't have too much time outside of soccer but when I do, I am quite the dork. I have a new found love for gardening, I LOVE Disneyland and I have a serious obsession for singing reality shows. Don't tell anyone.
Q-When you first entered UC San Diego in the fall of 2000, would you have predicted that you would still be here today?JONES-Absolutely not! These past 12 years have been amazing. Time has flown by but I also have grown so much from my experiences at UCSD. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have played and coached for such an amazing soccer program. Hopefully I'm around for a while!
Previous Q & A Articles
Brian Donohoe (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2011
Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Vincent Nguyen (Tennis) July 1, 2011
Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011
Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011
Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011
Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011
Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011
Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010