HIGHLANDS RANCH – Caryn Jarocki’s journey to 500 wins has been special.
Jarocki, who has been coaching girls basketball for 28 seasons in Colorado, earned the milestone 500th victory of her coaching career Friday night when Highlands Ranch defeated Legend.
The number of victories speaks volumes but what Jarocki values the most is her players and their accomplishments.
“My most rewarding thing is teaching the skills in practice and then seeing how they execute them in the game,” Jarocki said. “My sole purpose is to get the girls to execute what they do in practice in the games.
“And when they are actually able to do things in games, it is very, very exciting and rewarding.”
ThunderRidge coach Bill Bradley has seen Falcon players execute on the court.
“She does a great job of preparing her kids,” said Bradley. “She works at it year round and it pays off.”
Jarocki, who was head coach at Colorado Academy for 11 years and is now in her 17th season at Highlands Ranch, paused briefly when asked if anything in her career so far has been the most rewarding.
“Mostly all the kids that have come through my program that have gone on and been successful in college and after college,” she answered. “It has caused me to think back on all the kids that have played in my program. That’s the most rewarding part.”
Jarocki appears more laid back than many coaches but that attribute is a little misleading because she makes sure her players know what she expects.
“I absolutely loved playing for coach Jarocki,” University of Denver freshman Michaela Neuhaus said. “I learned so much from her, grew as a player and a person. We built a very strong relationship over the years and I truly believe she cares about all her players.
“She’s just not going to tell you what you want to hear and she is fairly straight forward in how she coaches. She can get on her players and be stern but it’s all about earning her trust. Looking back, she was right way more times than not. She has earned a lot of respect from the basketball world in Colorado, and mine.”
Neuhaus, a two-time All-State selection, was the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year last season. Former Boston College standout Jaclyn Thoman played on two Falcons state championship teams, was the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year and played professionally in Germany.
“A lot of people think she’s tough, a lot of people think she’s stern but the worst they can think about her is the best,” said Thoman. “My goal as a high school player was to win state championships, my goal was to be Miss 5A, my goal was to be Gatorade Player of the Year and I don’t think I would have been able to do it without her.
“Yeah, we had our fights but I developed a good relationship with her and as a point guard, I was her on the court in my high school years. We talked every day and I went into her office.”
Jarocki, a former player at the University of Denver who also is also Director of Coaching of the Colorado Basketball Club, has compiled a 349-72 record at Highlands Ranch, including this season’s 17-4 record.
She has the most victories of any girls basketball coach in Colorado.
“She does an amazing job at teaching the girls the game of basketball and how to be successful,” said Highlands Ranch athletic director Bruce Wright. “500 is a lot of wins but looking at how she coaches the girls, it is no surprise that she is there.”
Jarocki never thought of winning 500 games when she started coaching.
“Absolutely not,” she admitted. “I never think about that kind of stuff until it’s close and then, wow, it’s right here. It’s possible.
“It’s kind of hard maintaining it. That’s the hard part.”
Jarocki, 51, has coached seven state championship teams at Highlands Ranch.
“Probably winning the first one is the one I remember the most because you never know if you ever will win one,” Jarocki said. “That first one was very special for the kids that played in the program for four years and then won a state championship. That was cool.
“Each one (state championship) was very special and different it its own way. After you get one, you are never sure you’ll get win another one. It’s always a challenge to see if you can win another.”
After games, it is hard to tell if the Falcons won or lost by looking at Jarocki.
Ann Strother, the 2002 national Gatorade Player of the Year, played on Jarocki’s second and third state title teams.
“She’s pretty even keeled when it comes to game to game everyday stuff but after we won the state title she would come in and be pretty excited,” said Strother. “She knows when to get really excited and when to stay calm.”
Strother, who was an impact player at the University of Connecticut, the WBA and Europe, sees no reason why wins will not keep piling up on Jarocki’s record.
“500 wins doesn’t surprise me because I know how she is able to put together a team every year and adjust to the talent she has,” said Strother. “She knows how to build a team and every team is different, every player is different so year after year she has to figure how to set up her team and that’s what makes her special.
“I’m extremely proud and lucky I had a chance to play for such a great staff and coach Jarocki.”