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Provo • On the Monday after Halloween, the Brigham Young women's soccer team came to practice in costume. Their coach provided the day's most unexpected, enjoyable surprise.

Jennifer Rockwood roared onto the Cougars' practice field on her dirt bike, complete with safety garb, including shin guards and big boots.

"That's a side you don't see every day," said senior midfielder Kristi Jackson, who has seen a gradual change in her coach.

As No. 18 BYU (14-3-2) prepares for the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday at San Diego State, and most likely the school's 13th consecutive NCAA College Cup appearance, the program built by Rockwood is a testament to not only her growth as a coach, but as a person as well.

Rockwood, the only head women's soccer coach BYU has known, has learned to enjoy the fruits of her hard work. In turn, that has allowed her to enjoy relationships with the players.

"I am so fortunate to be here," Rockwood said. "I was here at the right time. I found success. I surrounded myself with great people. I can't imagine myself being anywhere else."

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe certainly understands what he has in Rockwood, as well as the quality of the program. The school's soccer program, only in existence because BYU had to create it for Title IX, has become one of the nation's top collegiate programs, complete with a first-rate playing facility and budget.

"It is probably one of my favorite teams on campus," Holmoe said. "We'll invest more because they've earned it. This team has more fun than most of our teams, and I like that."

The numbers speak volumes. Coming into 2010, Rockwood ranked 13th among active coaches with a .717 winning percentage, 246-74-23.

Rockwood has guided the Cougars to eight conference championships and reached the Sweet 16 in 1998, 2000 and 2003. In 2005, BYU was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country during the regular season, the highest ranking awarded to the Cougars in school history, and received its first-ever No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Rockwood played club soccer at BYU and afterward was asked to coach in 1989. The program became sanctioned in 1995. Her assistant Chris Watkins, who has been with her all but the first season said, "Soccer was not cared for on campus. But there was never a time we settled for just being here and Jen just showing up. 'How can we be competitive in this department?' That motivated us for a long time. We didn't want to be second fiddle."

BYU's program has evolved from traveling to events in vans to enjoying first-rate travel, accommodations and a schedule that now brings the top programs to Provo. Next season, the school's first in the highly-competitive West Coast Conference, BYU's home opener is against Miami.

Along the way, Rockwood, a lover of hip-hop and rap, whose personality can be judged by her new hobby, dirt biking, has learned to enjoy her team, to step back and have fun coaching, to let her hair down as much as she can. Never an assistant coach, Rockwood had to learn on the run. Sometimes that meant conflicts with players.

That changed following 2004, when the team stumbled through a losing season.

"There were a few years when I wondered if it was all worth it — all the time and travel," Rockwood said. "I just decided to try and enjoy it. I came into [2005] and thought, 'I'm going to coach like it was my last year. I'm going to make the most of it. I'm going to enjoy the girls and take it a year at a time.' "

"She's more relaxed," Jackson said.

And a winner.

The Jennifer Rockwood file

• The No. 10 winningest coach all-time by percentage (10 years minimum coaching) in women's collegiate soccer.

• Has guided the Cougars to eight conference championships.

• BYU has finished the season in the top 10 team three times, advancing to the Elite Eight of the 2003 NCAA College Cup.