Sacred Heart AcademyÂ has established a community that is dedicated to educating the whole person in academics, arts, athletics and spirituality. The all-girls program has cemented a rich tradition of winning in various sports. Within the soccer program, since head coach Jaclyn Puntillo took over the duties in 2013, she realized that the overall goal was not about winning.
â€œItâ€™s always about the kids. When you think about high school sports, itâ€™s a lot about winning or losing, but those arenâ€™t the only benchmarks for success for a program or a student. As a player, it was always about winning and losing, but as a coach it is a different approach. It becomes about development, and those day to day victories that donâ€™t always come up in the win-loss column.â€
Coach Puntillo grew up in Highland, Indiana (30 minutes outside Chicago), and had the chance to play Division one soccer. During her last years in college, she decided to embark on coaching.
On the teaching faculty at Sacred Heart, Puntillo is an educational technology coach. She certainly has the opportunity to create that positive and nurturing environment. As an advocate of same sex education, she believes it plays a major factor in the focus and success of the soccer program.
â€œIâ€™m a huge advocate for single sex education. As a teacher in private school, I feel like they are much more focused. There is not that distraction of boys and they are okay with getting up at six oâ€™ clock in the morning and then putting on their uniform and going to class. They have a level of focus that may not be the norm in public schools, and also itâ€™s an experience that allows them to be who they are without worry of judgment.â€
The focus and commitment has been there for the girls since Puntillo has been head coach. Sacred Heart has racked up 45 wins, the most in the seventh region, and only four losses in two seasons.
Puntillo says that her players are the true motor in the vehicle that has driven on this highway of success, and winning.
â€œI donâ€™t think I am doing a ton more than what my predecessors did. I believe the success in the program really relies a lot more on what the girls are doing and their commitment and investment than anything I am doing.â€
Joy in coaching is what has become sacred to Puntillo. Having played herself, she is able to relate to the girls when they face injuries, recruiting, and wanting to compete at a high level. Being able to deposit that experience and expertise to her girls is joyful to her.
â€œI really relate to my students. At Sacred Heart thatâ€™s what you encounter, really driven athletes. Thatâ€™s why my greatest joy is really getting to teach and spend time with young people, sharing the game I love. I see the successes they have day in and day out, and sharing that with them is special.â€
The Sacred Heart values of community, leadership, reverence and service stand as the core within the soccer program as well.
â€œThe number one thing is to recognize that tradition,â€ says Puntillo. â€œWe all put in so much work and time, because we want our student athletes to reap the benefit of that and to understand a strong work ethic. We want them to take these tools they are learning in their sport and apply them in academics, when they go to college, and to their jobs. I had a strong tradition to build upon. It is nice to keep that going, but a lot of that is demonstrating and really embodying those core values Sacred Heart has, like community, leadership, and those types of things.â€
Puntillo says the next chapter to be written in her coaching legacy will be to expand the Valkyriesâ€™ tradition of success to the community by having her players be more involved and to give back. She says it will, â€œPush them to achieve in high levels, not just with soccer, but in their lives outside the game. What you want them to take away is the importance of being a part of a team, and being able to create something that is greater than themselves and having fun while they do it.â€
Back in action
Fall sports are back again for the 2015 season. Two high powered volleyball programs will meet in their first game of the season. Assumption, who is head coached by Ron Kordes, went 32-6 last season, which was the best record in the seventh region. They will visit the Brown Lady Bears, head coached by Gary Dailey. Brown had the fifth best record in the seventh region last year, going 22-11. The game is scheduled Monday August 17, 7:00 p.m. at Brown High School. VT
Photo courtesy of Jim Stodghill