WNE grad fulfills dream with U.S. soccer team

Feb. 6, 2013
SPRINGFIELD – When the United States men's soccer team opened its 2013 season with a 0-0 draw against Canada on Jan. 29 before more than 11,000 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, former Western New England (WNE) student-athlete Jessica Covino played a big role in helping to organize the event.

Covino, who earned her bachelor's degree in Sport Management in 2010 from WNE, was only in her third day working as the Event Operations Coordinator for U.S. Soccer, a position she calls her "dream job."

Her primary job responsibilities include arranging, coordinating, and executing logistics, and game day operations for Senior National Team Events.

U.S. Soccer, which is having its centennial celebration this year, conducts approximately 20 events each year and Covino is the main contact with the visiting team, referees, ball kids, and player escorts.

"This is my dream job because of the passion I have for the game of soccer" Covino who played goalkeeper on the Golden Bears women's soccer squad for four seasons, said. She added, "Since I was ten years old, I have loved soccer and now I am working with the highest level of it in the United States. I work with, and get to watch the greatest players the USA has to offer. Soccer is growing rapidly in the United States and I am very excited to be a part of that and help it advance. I have always wanted to do something I love, and my hard work and determination has brought me to work with the US Soccer Federation."

Born to play soccer

If anyone personifies the Western New England student-athlete model, it's Covino.

A native of Bristol, Conn., she was introduced to the sport at an early age. "We had cousins who played soccer and we used to watch them. That's how we got involved, but the passion for soccer developed over time," Covino stated.

Although her parents didn't play the sport, Covino's two younger brothers were college soccer players. Steve starred at Division I Siena (NY) and played professionally in both the Premier Development and the United Soccer Leagues. He is now pursuing a coaching career. Her other brother Alex was on the Golden Bears squad in 2010 and 2011.

Covino enjoyed a successful high school career at Bristol Central and was a member of the 2005 squad that captured the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) Southern Championship title. The Rams also participated in four state tournaments with Covino guarding the net.

Covino decided to enroll at Western New England because of the beautiful campus, the opportunity to play soccer, and because of the Sport Management program.

"I didn't have a major selected while I was looking at schools, but I remember sitting in the Welcome Center looking through the book of all the undergrad courses. I read about the Sports Management program, then did the tour, and fell in love with the campus. I also met Coach Ron Dias and everything fell into place," Covino said.

Covino helps key Golden Bear success

As a freshman, Covino appeared in seven matches serving as the backup to senior All-New England goalkeeper Marisa Sullivan. The Golden Bears had a veteran squad that captured the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) title and appeared in the NCAA Division III Championship.

Dias had confidence in his hard-working rookie and knew she would be able to immediately step into the starting role as a sophomore.

Covino compiled a 13-6-3 record and 11 shutouts in 2007 that ranks as the third highest win total in the program's 29-year history. Her efforts helped the Golden Bears earn a playoff berth in the ECAC Division III New England Championship.

She finished her career with an impressive 29-25-5 (53.4 percent) record in 65 matches (56 starts) and was both an All-Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) and two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III All-New England selection. The Golden Bears were 42-35-7 (54.2 percent) during her tenure on the pitch and CCC Championship runners-up in 2009.

Covino was the quintessential team player who always downplayed her individual accomplishments. She was, however, proud of the fact she served as a Golden Bears captain her junior and senior seasons.

Dias, who has coached numerous elite players during his 19 years at Western New England, knew his soft-spoken goalkeeper with a friendly personality was a special, talented player. He predicts she will have a rewarding career with U.S. Soccer.

"I am happy for Jess because she was a great athlete, and leader both on and off the field," he stated. "During her four years we had a lot of success and her leadership from the goalkeeper's perspective was a big reason for that success. She was and still is a great ambassador for Women's Soccer and Western New England University."

Making the grade at Western New England and in the job world

Covino also brought her strong work ethic into the classroom where she became a Life Skills Study Coach mentoring undergraduates for the athletic department's highly-regarded NCAA CHAMPS Life Skills program.

She also served as a contest management volunteer covering men and women's basketball her final semester and participated in the Sport Management's Emerging Leadership Series.

The summer before her senior year Covino completed internships with both the New England Revolution and Western Mass Pioneers. She also was a Staff Assistant with the Miami Dolphins Youth and Community program the summer following her graduation.

Covino also has worked on a per diem basis in different capacities with US Soccer since December of 2010. Her ability to handle a variety of assignments ranks among her greatest skills and she gives a lot of credit for that to her alma mater.

Covino's rapid rise to a national level position doesn't surprise Sharianne Walker, professor and chair of Sport Management.

"I had the pleasure of working closely with Jess both in the classroom and as my freshman seminar assistant. She was a terrific role model for our freshmen Sport Management majors and someone who did all the right things to secure a position in the sport industry," Walker said, who also serves as the school's NCAA faculty representative.

Walker added, "Jess has always been smart, hardworking and persistent. From day one, she demonstrated a passionate commitment to working in sports and really knew how to build and manage her own brand. Her dream had always been to work for US Soccer and it is no surprise to me, knowing the kind of professional and person that Jess is, that she would make her dream come true. I couldn't be prouder or happier for her many accomplishments.and I know that we'll continue to see many great things from Jess in the future. "

The right decision

For Covino, her decision to attend to Western New England worked out perfectly.

"I am so grateful for my four years with the WNEC (during my time it was WNEC) soccer team," she said. "It was definitely a great experience that enhanced my love for the school and the sport. Coach Dias always pushed me to do my best and he never gave up on me. I am grateful for his direction and commitment during my career.

"I can't say enough about how great the Sport Management Department is at Western New England. Dr. Walker was a huge influence on me in and outside the classroom. She always supported me as an athlete and a student and I am forever grateful for her guidance and encouragement throughout this journey."

She continued, "Professor (Curt) Hamakawa also helped me to achieve my goal. As my faculty advisor, he supported me ever since I did my first internship with the Western Mass Pioneers Soccer Club. I am very thankful for his support. I always say that the WNE Sports Management department is the best. They truly care about each of their students and want them to succeed in the sports industry. They easily and professionally convey their knowledge of the sports industry to their students to help them achieve their goals."

For now Covino is working at home preparing for her next assignment on February 9 when the U.S. Women host Scotland at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. She moves to the national office in Chicago, Ill. on March 1.

– Courtesy of Ken Cerino, WNE Athletic Publications Coordinator

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