The Temple women’s lacrosse coach attributes her success and work ethic to her parents and her Jewish upbringing.
So where’s the best place to get matzah and Manischewitz in Nashville?
That’s the big question on Bonnie Rosen’s mind this week, as she prepares her Temple women’s lacrosse team to play Vanderbilt on Saturday. Due to the vagaries of the schedule, rather than sitting down for a Passover seder with her family, she’ll be with her other “family’’ — her players.
Somewhere along the way, before they take the field, the coach will take a few minutes to explain the holiday and why it’s important to her.
For the woman who grew up at Har Zion Temple and who, as a college freshman chose to fast while playing a field hockey game rather than tell her coach about the holiday, it’s all part of the learning experience.
“Being a college coach is all about the higher education process to me and helping people understand the world, not just the world they live in,’’ said the 45-year-old Rosen, now in her ninth season at Temple.
“I see myself as a coach first,” she said. “But I do take the opportunity to represent being an American Jew. For some people I’m the first face of that.
“No surprise, that ties in with family and how I’ve been raised,” she added. “You can’t separate my Jewish background and culture. It plays a huge role in my coaching.’’
As a kid growing up in Bala Cynwyd, Rosen was the proverbial tomboy, the kid who could run all day and was good at whatever sport she tried.
Her parents, Leslie and Lewis Rosen, gave their full support, signing her up for Little League and sending her off to Camp Canadensis, where she learned development and leadership skills that would pay dividends down the road.
At Lower Merion’s Harriton High, she excelled at lacrosse and field hockey, earning a scholarship to the University of Virginia, where she was a physical therapy major who captained both the field hockey and lacrosse teams her senior year.
She became a mainstay on the Cavaliers’ lacrosse team, where she was “a solid defender, never flashy,’’ recalled former Virginia coach Jane Miller, still active as UVa’s senior associate athletic director. “She held the fort down for our ’91 national championship team and was a steady, consistent player.”
“But she really blossomed when she graduated college,” Miller added. “I can’t say I was surprised she went into coaching. Obviously she had the tools and understood the game. I knew she’d do well.”
Her successful career at Virginia opened doors for Rosen that she never imagined, she said, including a spot on Team U.S.A., where she played for 13 years, winning World Cups in 1997 and 2001 in Japan and England, respectively.
Along the way, she crossed paths with Mandy O’Leary, who, as a player, had led Temple to the 1988 NCAA lacrosse title, before taking over as coach at Yale.
“She had a job opening and she brought me in,’’ said Rosen, who served as O’Leary’s assistant, while also taking on the role of women’s soccer coach, though she hadn’t played the sport since elementary school.
“Almost immediately, I fell in love with coaching and realized it’s what I wanted to spend my life doing,” she recalled. “I had a lot of great coaching role models. I didn’t realize at the time how much that was planting the seed for me wanting to coach.”
In 1997, she was hired by the University of Connecticut to start the program from scratch. She built the team into a top-20 power, winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship in 2005, when she was named Big East Coach of the Year.
But all the while, she longed for home, so when the Temple job opened up in 2007, she jumped at it.
“One of the reasons I came to Temple was to be near my family,” said Rosen.
She attributes her work ethic to her family. “People ask, ‘why do you work all those hours?’ Well, I grew up watching them run their own business, Leslie Rosen Catering.
“Fortunately, I have a family that understands what it means to love a job. They’ve always been supportive of me as an athlete and great role models for how I pursue my life.”
In 2012, she expanded her own role to become a pioneer, helping to get the Israeli national women’s lacrosse team off the ground as associate head coach in the European Festival championships in Amsterdam.
“It was a really great opportunity to kind of bring everything I care about together,’’ said Rosen, whose team won the club title.
“To be able to start lacrosse in Israel is a wonderful thing,” she said. She has since given up her role with the Israeli program because, she said, she didn’t have the time.
“But I’m happy the program is running strong. I really want to see girls in Israel playing lacrosse.”
Now she’s focused on her Temple Owls. Coming off a 6-10 record last year, the team is off to its best start in years at 8-2, but fell to No. 8 Florida, 17-3 on Saturday to open play in the reconfigured Big East.
Moving forward, the woman who really didn’t have many Jewish role models continues to raise the bar for those she hopes will follow.
“I hope anytime people from the Jewish community recognize a college coach is Jewish, they can see that as something to look up to,’’ Rosen said. “I just followed the route most kids take. I loved playing sports and opportunities were presented along the way. It just so happened I was Jewish.’’
As she prepares to leave for Nashville, Rosen has just one request: “Next year in Philadelphia!’’