LAURA JACKSON '13
Currently resides in Boca Raton, FL
IONA COLLEGE HIGHLIGHTS:
Two-time All-MAAC Second Team (2011, 2012)
2012 MAAC All-Tournament Team selection
Bachelor in Science – Biology (2013)
Served as a coach at Iona after student-athlete eligibility ran out in fall 2013
Laura Jackson '13 is currently an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic University. She joined the Owls staff after spending four years at the University of Idaho as a graduate assistant coach where the Vandals won back-to-back regular season championships in 2014 and 2015. They had an undefeated league record in 2014 and followed up the unblemished mark with a 7-1-2 finish in 2015. She graduated from the University of Idaho with a Master's in Science, focused on Neuroscience. Two years ago Jackson gained introduction into the NSCAA's prestigious "30 Under 30" program, identifying the top young soccer coaches nationwide.
Jackson sat down for a Q&A about her experience as an international student-athlete at Iona College.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN IONA SOCCER?
Coming from England the passion for Soccer is the equivalent of baseball, basketball, and American football combined. It's in the news all day every day, it's on the TV, and in schools that's the only sport anyone ever wanted to play in PE. Growing up in that environment my passion for soccer grew day by day and it was all I could think about. All through primary and secondary school I played soccer every single day, either in the playground or for a club team when I finally joined one at 12. At that time, you couldn't't really make a living as a women's soccer player in England so when my chance arose for a scholarship to the United States, I jumped at it.
I spent my first 2 years at Syracuse University in upstate NY before making the move to Iona College for the 2011 season. I felt really connected to the coach's vision for the program, as well as feeling immediately linked to campus when I visited. It was almost like a mirage, finding this beautiful, green campus full of brick buildings, right in the middle of a city. It was definitely love at first sight.
AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT, HOW DID YOU FIND ADAPTING TO COLLEGE LIFE AT IONA?
I had already spent two years in college in the US prior to transferring to Iona so the transition was pretty easy. The international office was very helpful, informative, and made sure that everything was good to go and all I had to worry about was my academics and soccer.
At the time there weren't any other internationals on the roster. However, there were many players on our team with international routes. Whether their parents had come to the United States as first generation, or they played for their national team abroad, we had a very diverse group so there was never a time that I felt like I was the odd one out.
As a player at Iona, the only thing my teammates and I had to worry about was connecting on the field, in practice and in games. We didn't have much trouble in doing that even if we didn't have the same backgrounds.
ANY PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT FROM YOUR TIME WITH THE PROGRAM?
I have so many great memories, and of course a few bad ones because each loss still burns! Probably the best memory was making the top four and subsequently the MAAC tournament at the end of my senior year. At the time there were maybe one or two players that had felt that feeling at Iona so it was a journey that we took together to represent our school. We went out to try and win a MAAC championship.
It was a great feeling to know that we had worked so hard all season long and came out better than six other teams. We were always told that the MAAC tournament was one of the hardest to make because only the top four could qualify so that was a goal we had in mind from day one. Also, we had also missed the tournament the year prior by one point, finishing in fifth, so it was a great feeling to push beyond that adversity from the year before and reach our goals.
Another memory that really stands out although the result wasn't't the best part, was homecoming my senior year. Our game that day was the "game of the day" and it felt like there were thousands of alumni either walking around campus, taking hayrides, or simply watching the game by the time we kicked off. Because the field is such a central location on campus anyone who had come to visit would eventually come by the game, and we felt nothing but support from our Gael community. Unfortunately, we didn't win the game. But it was a hard fought battle between us and our rivals, Fairfield. They had a vendetta from the previous year because we upset them 1-0 – such a hard fought game that I will never forget!
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? (WORK, FAMILY, ETC)
Currently I am coaching Division I Women's Soccer at Florida Atlantic University, who competes in Conference-USA, while also finishing up my PhD in exercise science remotely from the University of Idaho. The wonderful athletic experience I had at Iona definitely drove me to become a college soccer coach as I experienced first-hand how a great college experience can have a positive impact on someone's life.
I hope to instill the same passion I feel in the student-athletes that I work with throughout my career. Further, the academic experience I had at Iona kept me hungry and wanting more. Again, I felt like I learned so much, and had such a positive experience at Iona that I have been in graduate school ever since (although glad to be almost done)!
HOW DID IONA HELP AND PREPARE YOU TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS AFTER COLLEGE?
The coaches, my teammates, the school in general; all definitely helped shape me into the person I am today. After spending only two years at Iona, I have been driven to attain a master's degree, a doctorate, and various coaching licenses.
Iona still affects me to this day, I am still in contact with my team mates, my coaches, and even have a connection to the current coaches at Iona. They are my family and I know every athlete that leaves there feels the same way. Especially being an international student where my family lives on the other side of the planet, having that support system is what keeps me on the right track each day.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANY YOUNG STUDENT ATHLETES JOINING THE IONA COLLEGE SOCCER PROGRAM?
Iona is going to give you all the tools you need to live a successful life. There are schools in the MAAC with more money, larger campuses, more students. But the fact that Iona and the athletics department as a whole found a special niche as being a tight-knit community, you'll learn to push yourself both on-and-off the field with what has been ingrained in you.
My two years at Iona helped to turn the program around and its proves that anything is possible. It's just dependent on the work that you put in. I would also say that an Iona degree is like gold, not only myself but others who I graduated with (athletes or not) are either in higher education or on the fast track within their careers because of everything that Iona has brought to their lives.