When last year’s Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Jim Barbiere opted to take a lesser coaching role this season, assistant coach Reid Jackson made a seamless transition into the head role.
“Jim and I are friends and we have a lot of respect for each other. But before I could say yes to the new role, I had to talk it over with my wife because we have three kids ages 4, 3 and 2,” Jackson said. “The good thing was that I live in town and I work in town so the commute was extremely easy. Also, Jim was still there as a volunteer assistant coach”
In college, Jackson played at Rutgers University and was a 1994 First-Team All-American defender for the Scarlet Knights. As an assistant coach for the previous five years, Jackson ran the defense for the Bulldogs, but this year his role expanded when he became the head coach.
“I was surprised at the success we had this year after losing 16 seniors to graduation. I don’t care what program you have, your seniors dictate how your season is going to go,” Jackson said. “This team came together and we played a lot of sophomores that were good, but they were inexperienced.”
Everyone on the Rumson-Fair Haven roster gained valuable experience as the season went along because the Bulldogs were challenged in every game as they had the Asbury Park Press’ No. 1 ranking from the preseason all the way to today’s All-Shore section. From April until late May, the Bulldogs were undefeated until Summit stopped a potential undefeated season in the NJSIAA Group II state semifinals. Nevertheless, in Jackson’s first season, the Bulldogs went 19-1.
“We drilled into their heads that relationships, communication and organization are the keys to success in life,” Jackson said. “Also, the coaching staff got better at taking notes of what was working and what wasn’t working for the team. Our method wasn’t yelling and screaming at the players, but more so building confidence in them.”
Rumson-Fair Haven won the Shore Conference Class-A Central with an 8-0 record and on May 16, the Bulldogs added Shore Conference Tournament champion to their resume with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Jackson Memorial. It was Rumson-Fair Haven’s sixth appearance in the SCT final and its third SCT title after the Bulldogs rallied from a two-goal fourth quarter deficit and defeated Jackson Memorial, 9-8, to repeat as SCT champion and improve their record to 16-0. Rumson Fair Haven’s previous SCT titles came in 2011 and 2007.
“The SCT final, how can you forget that game. First of all, I have to take my hat off to Jackson Memorial coach Nick Caruso and I felt bad for his kids because they executed a great game plan,” Jackson said. “I also have to say how proud I was of our kids in that game. When we fell behind, we didn’t give up and we gritted it out.”
Jackson went to St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen and played basketball and lacrosse there. He’s helped start numerous youth programs and has been a certified trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance since 2003. Last year, he started Lax Team Six, which is an elite skills training company focused on developing lacrosse skills in young players .