Bernadette Connor, née Campbell, is an assistant coach and offensive coordinator with the women’s lacrosse team at Division III Kean University in Union, New Jersey.
Connor, a 2003 graduate of Cinnaminson High School, began her lacrosse coaching career not long after graduating from The College of New Jersey in Ewing in 2007. Aside from lacrosse, Connor also played soccer and ran winter track while at Cinnaminson.
“Running track helped me a lot as an athlete,” Connor said. “I never felt that getting to the very edge of your physical capabilities until I ran track. I ran a race once and felt, ‘This is it. I am going to die.’ All those other times when I thought I was tired, I really wasn’t tired. It definitely helped going to the college level and being able to compete a high level. I feel like the track experience really helped with my other sports.”
Connor credits her family as a major help to her adjusting from high school athletics to college athletics.
“The support that I had from my family during my high school years really helped build confidence going into college. With high school sports being so close to home, everybody could come to the games. I am the oldest of seven, so I have a lot of younger siblings. I always felt very supported and that goes a long way.”
Connor was a member of back-to-back national championship lacrosse teams while playing at TCNJ in 2005 and 2006.
“It was definitely a highpoint in sports for me,” Connor said. “Everything just clicked and it was really cool. It helped me with my coaching career because you kind of know what type of teams are successful. You learn how to bring everyone together. When everyone feels a part of it, the only thing left to do is win a championship.”
She was part of the 2004 team that lost in the national title game. The Lions made the NCAA Tournament all four years that she played.
“My freshman year was our runner-up year. We were actually undefeated during the season,” Connor said. “Our only loss was the championship. It hit pretty hard. It was a motivation for us and working harder the next few years.”
Connor’s first coaching job came in 2007 with West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North as the assistant varsity coach. She remained there until the end of the 2013 season.
“I think that high school athletes have a lot on their plate. When you can make sports something that they really enjoy, and they can see success, then your high school team has the best advantage you can give for the kids,” Connor said.
“A lot of high school coaches I’ve found either focus all of their time on the winning and none on the fun or trying to be best friends with the kids instead of focusing on their success. So, balancing that is probably what I learned the most at West Windsor. We were very successful because the kids really enjoyed the hard work, but they also got to see their successes.”
Following the 2013 high school season, Connor joined the Cougars coaching staff at Kean.
“I love coaching in college because you can do everything the game allows you to. You can be so creative. It’s really cool to have high-level athletes performing your little creations.”
Connor has now been a part of two strong lacrosse programs within the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), but on different sides of the ball.
“It’s definitely fun. It’s fun playing against TCNJ, being in the same conference. They’re still competitive. They’re still good,” Connor said. “They are always going to be at the top. Knowing that’s the competition we have in our conference gives us a great goal to reach. We’re always going to play them at least once every year. That’s really exciting to test ourselves against the best.”
The 2016 season will be Connor’s third on the sidelines with head coach Jordan Trautman. Connor cited Trautman as the reason why she took the coaching job with women’s lacrosse at Kean.
“Jordan’s amazing. It’s why I took the job and why I want to keep the job and have success with her. She’s a two-time All-American from Georgetown. All of her visions for lacrosse match up with mine. Creating a culture for our team, which is hard to do in college sports, is focused on a lot by both of us.”
The Cougars have compiled a 16-19 overall record and 6-6 mark in the NJAC during Connor’s tenure with Kean. 2016 will mark the 21st season in the history of the program, which began play in 1996.