Gaudioso-Crisafi Honored to Coach at Her Alma Mater
As a softball player, Jenna Gaudioso-Crisafi was tasked with patrolling center field for East Haven and catching any fly ball that came her way. For the past three years, Jenna has helped the new wave of Yellowjackets find their footing in the outfield while serving as an assistant coach with the East Haven softball team.
Jenna grew up playing softball in East Haven and still lives in town. After starting with tee-ball, Jenna moved on to play softball for East Haven through her time at the high school. As she was playing, Jenna learned about resiliency and how great of a team sport softball can be.
Jenna joined the East Haven softball program in 2011. She was a member of the team for all four years and served as a captain in her senior season. During her junior year, the Yellowjackets tied the school record for most wins in a season, a mark which had been held by the 1985 team, by recording 21 victories on the campaign.
“Years ago, I got to wear the jersey and be a part of some great, talented teams who made great runs. I’ve been in the girls’ shoes before. I know how it feels,” says Jenna. “Playing for East Haven softball is a very special thing.”
The school record for wins was broken by this year’s team as East Haven won 23 games on its way to claiming its first SCC title. Jenna was able to witness history from the dugout in her capacity as a coach. Jenna believes that the key for the Easties is for their players to keep putting the team first as they continue building the program’s winning tradition.
“East Haven softball really emphasizes putting the team before yourself. They work on big goals, such as championships, rather than just personal goals,” Jenna says. “They work hard for the betterment of the team and the future of the program.”
While she enjoyed witnessing East Haven’s dream season, Jenna never expected to be a coach. After playing four years of softball at Western Connecticut State University, Jenna was contacted by Yellowjackets’ Head Coach Ed Crisafi, who told her that he “needed a favor” and asked her to coach a fall ball team. Jenna obliged and began her time in East Haven coaching family. Now, for the past three seasons, Jenna has been a member of the Yellowjackets’ coaching staff.
It was a big change for Jenna as she adjusted from being an athlete to becoming a coach. However, Jenna’s experience of playing at both the high school and college levels helped East Haven’s athletes relate to her and allowed Jenna to connect as a coach.
“It was definitely different being in charge, calling the shots and being the one talking,” says Jenna. “But I loved it, and I think the girls really enjoyed having somebody who played in high school and college. They could relate to me.”
Jenna works with East Haven’s outfielders as one of the team’s assistant coaches. An outfielder herself, Jenna focuses on doing all the drills and making sure that everyone is up to speed out there. Jenna has also served as the Yellowjackets’ first base coach. No matter what she’s doing on the field, Jenna tries to keep everyone on East Haven’s roster motivated and positive.
Jenna often tells to Easties’ athletes to look up to the older players and be ready to put in the work. She wants the up-and-comers to learn from the veterans as they strive to create a role for themselves on the squad. Now having been in her post for three seasons, Jenna realizes how special of an experience it is to coach a quality softball program in her hometown.
“Being a coach on this particular team is amazing. Not only are they talented athletes, but they’re great people,” Jenna says. “We have a really nice following within the town. The teachers come and watch us play. It’s a really nice sense of community.”
This year, Jenna had an opportunity to coach alongside her former teammate Talia Loda, who was in her first season as an assistant coach with East Haven. The two played together for four years and then competed against each other when Jenna was at Western Connecticut and Loda attended Springfield College. Now reunited on the East Haven diamond, Jenna feels grateful and proud to be coaching in tandem with a close friend.
“It’s the best thing. We used to be teammates, and then we were opponents,” says Jenna. “Now to be co-coaches is a great thing for anyone, especially for people who are friends.”
Coach Crisafi is glad that Jenna is back in the fold as an assistant coach. Crisafi calls Jenna one of the best outfielders that he’s ever worked with and knew that she’d be a perfect fit on the coaching staff. Furthermore, with Jenna having recently married Crisafi’s son Jeff, who’s is also an assistant coach for East Haven, Crisafi feels proud to be coaching alongside his daughter-in-law.
“Jenna has brought so much to the program in her three years. Being one of, if not the best outfielder I’ve ever coached, her work at practice with our outfielders made them one of the best in the state as a group,” Crisafi says. “Jenna had a great rapport with the team, which helps me and Jeff tremendously. I’m so glad to have her as a daughter-in-law, as well as a coach.”
Jenna has spent most of her life on the softball diamond between her careers at East Haven and Western Connecticut. Jenna knows that she’s part of a special community and wants to help the Yellowjackets succeed both on and off the field in her role as a coach.
“Softball is one of the best games ever. The softball community is very special,” says Jenna. “They play year-round, and they’re always working to get better. Softball teaches you a lot more than just the sport.”