The North Carolina State University softball program certainly has a York College feel to it these days.
One year after the university hired Jennifer Patrick-Swift — who led the York College program during 2008 and 2009 — as head coach, another Spartans' head coach has decided to join the Wolfpack.
Jen Petteys has joined North Carolina State as a volunteer assistant coach after seven seasons with York College, in which she had a record of 153-144-2. While Petteys said she wasn’t actively looking for a new gig, the chance to coach at an NCAA Division I school for a coach she respects was too good to pass up.
“It seemed like it was almost meant to be,” Petteys said. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity and I would be remiss if I passed an opportunity like that up.”
She joins a Wolfpack program that finished 31-27 in 2019, including a 9-15 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Before taking over at North Carolina State, Patrick-Swift spent seven years as the head coach at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
A unique start: For Petteys, coaching started out as a secondary job. After she finished her playing career at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, Petteys spent 12 years in county government in upstate New York while coaching part-time.
In 2013, Petteys decided to transition into full-time coaching when she took over the York College program. She always thought of eventually coaching at the Division I level, but it wasn’t a priority for her.
That all changed this summer.
After keeping tabs on Patrick-Swift’s career and running into her on the recruiting trail a few times, the coaches were having a conversation about potential recruits for the Wolfpack in the area when the possibility of Petteys joining the North Carolina State staff was mentioned.
“It wasn’t really planned at all,” Petteys said. “It was kind of, in the right place at the right time, and having the right conversations this summer.”
An offer she couldn’t refuse: After a number of discussions, Petteys was in her home office when she got the call that the position was hers if she wanted it. Petteys went through a number of emotions, ranging from shock to being honored, and knew she only had one choice.
“Coaching at the Division I level, especially in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) is a dream come true,” Petteys said. “As coaches, you always want to be at the top of the game. We want to be successful at the top of the game and get all you can out of the experience.”
Once the excitement from accepting the position set in, Petteys turned her attention to letting the York College community know. From her coaching staff to the players to the alumni, none of those conversations were easy, but everyone understood what the opportunity meant for her.
“York is always going to have a special place in my heart,” Petteys said. “I think it was an extremely difficult decision. I was really thankful for what I was able to develop there at York College and I really was in a good place. It was a tough call.”
The perfect fit: After she talked to the current Spartans and future recruits, it was time for Petteys to get acclimated to her new team. She headed down to North Carolina in July to work at a softball camp and meet her new co-workers.
Once there, she realized it was the right fit for her and the offer that seemed “too good to be true” was no such thing. It was true.
Petteys said in addition to helping out with hitting, her primary duties will be to work with the Wolfpack outfielders, the position she played in college. Petteys still holds the program record for hits (223) and on-base percentage (.502) at St. John Fisher College.
Although she was sad to leave the York College program she worked so hard to build, Petteys said the exposure the program receives from having two former coaches on a Division I staff can only mean a bright future for the Spartans.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Petteys said. “It sends a very positive message for York College and the institution as a whole.”
A rewarding journey: After the journey that saw her go from a part-time coach to a Division III head coach to a position at the highest level of college softball, Petteys is proud of the time and effort she put in over the years.
Her message to coaches looking to reach their own goals in the industry — no matter when or where the opportunities are — is do more than the competition and results will come.
“You talk about the saying, ‘Hard work really does pay off,’ and I feel like there is a big part of that,” Petteys said. “Always being humble enough to work more, be trained by the best and work with the best so I can be the best head coach I can be. Coming through maybe not the standard path everybody else goes through to get to that level, there is a reward out there for those that work hard for others and want to give back.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.