Sports Person of the Week
Limone’s Honored to Coach at Her Alma Mater
Former Branford field hockey standout Jenna Limone is entering her second season on the Hornets’ coaching staff and her first year as a full-time varsity assistant. Jenna also works as special education paraprofessional at East Haven High School. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Limone )
Jenna Limone has a big year ahead of her with the Branford High School field hockey team. After serving as a volunteer assistant last season, Jenna is now a full-time assistant coach for the same program that she played for before graduating from Branford in 2012. Jenna is also looking forward to working as a special education paraprofessional at East Haven High School.
In March of 2019, Jenna was living in Boston and working in the digital marketing field when she sent an email to Branford field hockey Head Coach Pete Frye. A former four-year varsity player for the Hornets, Jenna was looking for opportunity to come back to the team as a coach.
Jenna and Frye exchanged emails until they eventually met in May. Jenna expressed how much the Branford field hockey team means to her and that she wanted to return. Frye knew that Jenna would make a great addition to his coaching staff and brought her aboard in a volunteer capacity last fall.
“I have wanted to coach the Branford team since I was 15. I had my brother [Branford football Head Coach John Limone] to look up to, and he just coaches with such grace,” Jenna says. “I was in my cube in Boston. None of my coworkers knew I was moving back to Branford, and I sent Pete an email. I thought I would just ask him. The worst thing he could say was no. I told him I would come in any capacity. Him taking that chance on me changed my life.”
Jenna moved back to Branford right around the time that she became a member of the Hornets’ coaching staff. In her first season as a coach, Jenna worked with Branford’s defenders and the team’s goalkeepers.
“My first year was really exciting, but also nerve-wracking. It was my first year ever doing it. Just because you’re a great player doesn’t mean you’ll be a great coach,” Jenna says. “I felt like I hadn’t left. It was cool to be on the other side of things and have a new perspective. I told the goalies I wanted them to be better than me, and that I’ll work as hard as you work for me. They had an awesome work ethic. These kids taught me more about myself. They’re helping me evolve and change, as I’m hoping the coaching is doing for them.”
When Jenna returned to Connecticut, she not only became a coach, she also switched career fields by becoming a special education paraprofessional. Jenna currently works at East Haven High School, where she was hired three weeks before schools were shut down due to COVID-19. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in special education at Southern Connecticut State University.
Jenna says that once she started coaching, she realized she wanted to work in the education field, instead of an office environment.
“I quit my corporate job in February, and I took a really big chance. I would go from field hockey with these kids to my corporate job, and I would feel like completely two different people. I liked the person I was at practice better,” says Jenna, who was working for a digital marketing company in Southington at the time. “I’m really excited to go back and work with some of the special education teachers I’ve gotten to know. Even though I was only there for three weeks, they’re so welcoming at East Haven. I thought I was there for a full year. I fell in love with the special education program.”
Jenna was a standout goalie for Branford during her playing days. She made the varsity team as a midfielder in her freshman year, but Coach John McGuirk suggested to Jenna to try her hand at the goalkeeper’s position. Jenna became the Hornets’ starting goalie as a sophomore and held on to that spot for the rest of her high school career. During her senior season, she helped Branford advance to the championship game of the Class M State Tournament.
Jenna believes that competing with the Branford field hockey squad “paved the way” for her in life. Jenna feels fortunate to have played for some great teams and says that she can’t imagine where she would be right now without that experience.
After graduating from Branford, Jenna moved on to play Division I field hockey at Bryant University in Rhode Island, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing. Jenna admits that she struggled during her freshman year while underestimating the caliber of DI athletics. However, Jenna continued to improve and was named a team captain as a junior.
Jenna says that playing field hockey in college showed her that she couldn’t rely on her natural ability anymore and needed to work harder. Now a coach, Jenna is hoping to help Branford’s athletes understand that sometimes you need to be brought to an uncomfortable space in order to learn how to move forward.
Jenna will continue to work with the Hornets’ defenders and goalkeepers in her first season as a full-time assistant. Coach Frye says that Jenna has already made a positive impact on junior goalie Nina Shamas. Frye knows that having Jenna on his coaching staff is beneficial to both his athletes and the overall culture of the program.
“Jenna contacted me completely out of the blue, and it was such a no-brainer. It’s kind of like the Jack Welch—always hire people that are smarter than you—and she certainly fits that box,” says Frye. “To have a goalie at the high school level, a lot of colleges don’t even have that. To have a dedicated goalie is just fantastic for us.”
One added bonus for Jenna with coaching in Branford is that she is now colleagues with her older brother John, who coaches the Hornets’ football team. Jenna has looked up to John throughout her life and always asked for his advice when she was an athlete.
Jenna feels honored to once again be a member of the athletics program that she grew up in. After taking a leap of faith and pursuing her passion for coaching, Jenna has no plans of leaving the Branford sidelines anytime soon.
“This is a dream come true for me. Coaching has opened my eyes to my true passion. I feel like I have a purpose. The kids have given me more in one short year than they will ever realize,” Jenna says. “I’m so grateful for them and Pete giving me this opportunity. In 10 to 20 years, if I’m still in this program and working as a coach for Branford High School field hockey, I’d consider myself one lucky person.”