Jack Rushworth is positive and has every right to be.
Following a two-year stint as a graduate assistant with the Governors soccer program, Rushworth has accepted a position as a volunteer assistant with Penn State University.
“First and foremost, I just want to bring a love for the game and a positivity,” Rushworth said on the opportunity. “I think it all starts there. That’s hopefully why we’re all in the game; we want to enjoy it. If I could bring that, I think that’s a start.”
During his tenure at APSU, Rushworth served Clarksville’s soccer community in many aspects: on top of the assistant coaching position, the York-native additionally served as the head of goalkeeping for players within the Montgomery County Soccer Association. He also ran a cost-efficient field academy to develop some of middle Tennessee’s most eager young prospects.
As a goalkeepers coach, Rushworth excelled in his previous position. The Govs ranked inside the top four of goals allowed in the OVC during his two-year tenure. The coach described his departure as bittersweet after graduating in May with a master’s degree in coaching.
“It was strange,” Rushworth said. “Because obviously I wanted to stay, but as a graduate assistant you’re there for two years: you come in, and you go out. I don’t think many people realize that. Especially because I was given so much responsibility. I was really treated by our staff as a full-time coach. I think some of the players didn’t even know I was there for two years and then out.
“It was bittersweet and, like I said, I loved it there. In a perfect world, would I have wanted to leave? Maybe not. But, obviously, things have kind of worked out.”
Rushworth joins a staff that is well accustomed to success in the Big Ten Conference and beyond, as the Nittany Lions began last year ranked sixth in the nation. The soccer program would eventually be crowned conference tournament champions but would later see their season come to a close in the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
“Working with them is great,” the coach said regarding the feelings surrounding his new position. “The staff are great. They’re really welcoming, really knowledgeable and really experienced. The players are obviously fantastic athletes as well, really good players. Really, it’s a pleasure to be here, to be working in the facilities with the people, with the team. Some days I can stand back, watch and take it all in, and I’ll learn so much, whether it be from the players, from the coaches, whatever.”
The APSU alum sung high praise of Governors current head soccer coach, Naomi Kolarova, who granted Rushworth the opportunity to begin a career in coaching while still playing at Tennessee Wesleyan.
“She is one of the biggest influences I’ve had,” he added. “When I was at Tennessee Wesleyan, she needed an assistant coach – a goalkeeper coach – and my head coach at the time kind of put me through to her. So I was playing on the men’s team as a senior and then coaching on the women’s side. It showed a lot of trust from Naomi [Kolarova] to do that, because I was still at college with the ladies on the women’s program. She gave me the opportunity and I was very, very grateful for it, absolutely loved it. Then the program had its best season ever. Ultimately, coach Naomi giving me that opportunity is what started all this.”
Although the Big Ten has postponed fall competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rushworth believes that there is a bright side to the delayed start of the season.
“It’s certainly different,” Rushworth said. “It’s certainly different, because you plan on coming in and getting a good preseason and then getting on with the season, but right now it’s good. It’s an opportunity to grow, I think, more than anything else. We have more time to work with the freshman and teach them the system and how we do things here. It gives me more time to learn how things do run here. It gives the senior players more time to develop and sort of pull together. While it’s not ideal, we’re certainly viewing it positively – for me, for the team and for the coaches.”
As Rushworth closes the door on one chapter in his young career and opens another, the former Govs coach says he will miss the professional and personal community in Clarksville moving forward.
“I’ll remember the team, for sure,” he said. “There’s some great people on the team. First and foremost it was a good group and then a soccer team as well. I’ll miss the people, the staff – whether it be soccer or the sports – it really was a community. It’s bittersweet to kind of leave that community of people who are like-minded, really good people. I think that will be what I miss the most.”