J A C K I E B L E I, MASSACHUSETTS
In 1973, Jackie Blei began coaching girls’ softball and basketball in her home state of Rhode Island. After receiving her undergraduate degree in physical education from the University of Rhode Island, she went on to receive a master’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology from the University of Kansas.
In 1980, after four years teaching physical education classes at Ball State University, she embarked on a 35-year career at Smith College where she not only coached field hockey and lacrosse, but also served as an instructor in the Exercise and Sport Studies Department, and manager the Olin Fitness Center. As the head field hockey coach at Smith College, Jackie holds the highest winning percentage in the history of the program. In 1983, she led Smith College to their first Northeast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance. She was inducted into the Smith College Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2019.
During her career, Jackie also spent 13 years serving the sport as an official. She was a member of US Field Hockey and USA Lacrosse associations, holding a high school local rating in lacrosse and a collegiate sectional rating in field hockey. Additionally, Jackie made time to teach racquet sports to adults in the community and teach physical education classes to children who were homeschooled.
Throughout her life, Jackie championed gender equity, most recently earning commendations for her advocacy work during Smith College’s 50 Year Anniversary of Title IX ceremony. In addition to celebrating her dedication as coach, educator, and advocate for girls and women in sport, Jackie is lauded by her former students, athletes, and colleagues for a career spent patiently nurturing and teaching young coaches.
Jackie passed away in 2019 and is inducted posthumously.