Over 15 years ago, Jackie Neary left Temple University as assistant lacrosse coach to join the Cabrini community as head lacrosse coach. One year later Neary began her 15-year career as head field hockey coach.
Neary played field hockey and lacrosse at Temple then furthered her athletic career becoming head coach.
“I saw an advertisement in the paper for a lacrosse coach. After my first year coaching the lacrosse team the field hockey coach left to coach at Villanova. I always loved and played field hockey and I knew that my recruits played both so I took the coaching job and I am so glad that I did,” Neary said.
Displayed in her office in the Dixon Center are an array of picture frames and collages of former teams and loving players. Piled on her desk are post-it notes and thumb-tacked to a corkboard are team schedules.
“As far as the quality of the athlete and the programs, Cabrini is right there. I don’t think there is a difference between our school and a Division I school like Temple,” Neary said.
Brian Beacham, sports information director, has been working for Cabrini College for three years.
“Cabrini is a lot smaller and close-knit and I enjoy working with a Division III school rather than Divison I. Athletics are very important to this college and everyone usually has a good pulse about what’s going on,” Beacham said.
Over these past years Neary has had support from her husband Jodi and her four children; Jake, Sean, Jackie and Shae.
“My family loves Cabrini. My oldest son Jake has been going to games since he was 5 and my daughters come to the games as well,” Neary said.
Neary brings her children to most of the games and Kerry Jarema, assistant coach, brings her infant daughter, Kate, too.
“Cabrini is more than just a job for my mom. It’s what makes her who she is. She really views everyone at the school as a part of her family, especially the girls on her team,” Jake Neary, son of Neary and junior education major, said.
After working a few offices away from one another, Beacham and Neary have developed a close relationship.
“I think that’s special to Cabrini. I’ll steal a quote from Jackie, ‘Small college, big family,’” Beacham said. “She always wants to know how you and your family are and brings her family around all the time. We love it.”
Besides her family and co-workers supporting her, she works alongside her assistant coach and former player, Julie Smith, who graduated from Cabrini in 2005.
“I always thought I would coach but I never thought I’d be back at Cabrini and I’m so glad to be back. I’ve coached elsewhere and I always say that I don’t love coaching; I love coaching with Jackie at Cabrini. Coaching with her is a totally different experience,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m still learning from her every day and I continue to be inspired by her.”
Neary is reaching her 150th win and has been in the playoffs and semi-finals every season. Although the Lady Cavs record is 5-4, Neary still has hopes for another CSAC title this season.
“I don’t think it’s out of our reach to win another CSAC title this year as long as the team stays focused. With our seniors, anything is possible,” Neary said. “They brought us to a higher level and changed the tone of our team.”
“We’ve always made the playoffs but have only won one championship. That’s what so unique about this team. They accomplished two great things: they won the first conference title in my career and beat The College of New Jersey, one of the top teams in the nation,” Neary said.
Beacham watches every field hockey game and runs the live online program from the press box available on the Cabrini athletics website.
“When I began my career at Cabrini, they were a young team but now they’re veterans. They’re such a tough team, mentally and physically,” Beacham said. “I think they’ll put it all together and make another run at the championship.”
Beacham believes that it is a safe assessment that a lot of the field hockey players think of Neary as their second mother.
“What makes Jackie a great coach is the fact that she’s a great person and she can teach so many things in just a sport. I think that she’ll be a long-standing friend in my life once I graduate in May. I want to give back to the athletic program what she gave me so other students have the same opportunities and experiences as I did,” Shannon Mulhern, senior center midfielder said.
Caitlin Donahue, senior goalkeeper, also agrees with Beacham.
“I have a friendship with my coach. I can trust Jackie with anything and she’ll help me out,” Donahue said. “I’ve learned a lot from her over these past four years.”
“Jackie was very excited when the field hockey team won the CSAC because it’s never been done before. In a sense, she was due. She had been there so many times and when Mulhern scored the game-winning goal it was finally the culmination of 15 years as a coach,” Beacham said.
Creating life-long relationships with co-workers, winning a CSAC championship and recruiting top-notch players are only some of Neary’s achievements.
“Jackie’s accomplishments on the field are above and beyond. She’s had some huge wins. I think her greatest accomplishments are seeing the girls’ faces after a win or a great practice, seeing the joy she brings to them. You can see her accomplishments more in her players rather than on the field,” Smith said.
“I can’t put into words what Jackie means to Cabrini. She’s been at this school for over 15 years. Not only does she recruit model student-athletes, they leave and continue to stay in touch with her. Jackie does a phenomenal job at developing the students as athletes and individuals,” Beacham said.
Jackie believes that when she retires she will without a doubt have unmistakable memories.
“When I retire, the greatest memories I’ll have are the relationships I made with the student-athletes and their families. I think great kids come to Cabrini and I’ve said that across the board, not only athletes but the general student population as well,” Neary said. “The slogan, Do Something Extraordinary, it’s real.”