Jennifer Tanaka enters her 13th year as head coach at Rio Hondo College and her 33rd year as a competitive soccer coach. With Tanaka as head coach, Rio Hondo has been recognized as a top-20 team in the nation every year since 2014. Tanaka holds the highest coaching licenses in the United States, the United States Soccer Federation National (USSF) "A" License, the United Soccer Coaches/NSCAA "Premier" Diploma and the USSF National Youth License. She has coached at the youth, club, high school and community college level to great success in Southern California, winning championships at the club, high school, community college, state and regional ODP levels over her 33 years of coaching.
Entering this 2020-2021 season, Tanaka has 2,003 career wins as a head coach at all levels. Tanaka recorded her 100th community college win in 2016 to clinch the South Coast Conference Championship.
Coach Tanaka was appointed to the 14-person US Soccer Federation (USSF) National Technical Committee for Player Development in 2001 and served through 2004. This committee was made up of the US Youth National Team coaches, then current US Men’s National Team Head Coach (Bruce Arena), then current Women’s National Team Head Coach (April Heinrichs), MLS and former WUSA players/coaches.
She has trained and coached hundreds of players who have gone onto play at major university soccer programs across the nation. In addition, she has coached CIF-SS Players of the Year, NSCAA high school All-Americans, collegiate All-Americans, NWSL, WUSA and WPS All Stars, WPS Rookie of the Year, MAC Hermann Award winners, players who have played professionally overseas, players who have played for the Mexican National Team, and US National Team in Olympic and World Cup competition.
In her 12 years at Rio Hondo, 95 players have been recognized as all-conference athletes, a record 10 players have been named as the conference MVP or Defensive/Offensive Player of the Year by the conference coaches, three United Soccer Coaches (USC)/NSCAA Scholar-All-Americans, one USC/NSCAA National Scholar Athlete of the Year, 18 CCSCA Scholar Athletes, two USC/NSCAA All-Americans and six players have been the Rio Hondo Female Athlete of the Year. Tanaka has been named Conference Coach of the Year in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Under Tanaka’s leadership, 88 percent of Rio Hondo sophomores have transferred to universities or were accepted into professional programs such as a nursing RN program. Many of the players received athletic or academic scholarships and continued their collegiate soccer careers. The Roadrunner women had an incredible 100 percent transfer rate for sophomores in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and continues to be one of the top programs in the nation in transfer percentage.
Rio Hondo has been recognized with the National USC/NSCAA Academic Team Award for seven years in a row (2013-2019) earning the #2 position nationally for consecutive years winning this Academic Award for Community College programs.
Tanaka has been a staff and age group head coach for the Region IV –ODP/Olympic Development Program (representing the 14 western states) program, working there since 2003 and previous to that, coached for Cal South's ODP program for many years. At the club level, she has coached for the San Diego Surf, Irvine Strikers, So Cal/Cerritos Infinity and NHB FC.
She coached high school for five years at Chadwick School winning two CIF-SS Girl’s Soccer Championships, three Prep League Championships and was named the CIF-SS Coach of the Year twice in 2004 and 2005. Her overall record during this five-year span was 82-13-15 with an impressive 56 shutouts and 320 goals scored.
As an assistant coach at Long Beach City College in 2004 and 2005, she helped the team to the 2005 State Women’s Soccer Championship and the NSCAA Junior College #1 National ranking.
In 2003, Coach Tanaka received the US Soccer Federation-April Heinrichs/NIKE Coaching Award for her contributions and education in girl’s soccer. She has been featured in Soccer Jr. and Soccer America magazines for her innovative coaching techniques.
She is a strong believer in the benefits of higher education. She holds two graduate degrees and continues to search out higher education opportunities. Coach Tanaka completed the 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT200) program and is a certified instructor from Yoga Alliance. Tanaka earned her first Masters of Arts in Business Leadership from Chapman University and completed the second graduate degree, a Masters of Science in Physical Education.
She played for the So Cal Futsal Academy in the Women’s Pro/Am Division of the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 United States Futsal National Championships’ where the team won four consecutive US Futsal Federation National Championships.
As a senior in high school, she chose to bypass her last year of playing high school soccer in order to play for the then #1 ranked women’s team in the nation, AJAX of Palos Verdes, CA. As a freshman at UC Irvine, Tanaka set the school record for single season assists and is still a top record holder in career assists. She graduated from the University of California at Irvine (1995) in 3 ½ years while playing NCAA Division I soccer.
At Rio Hondo College, Tanaka is a professor in the Kinesiology Department, where she is responsible for the Coaching of Sport Certificate and is the Fitness Center Coordinator. She also serves on committees for Curriculum, Guided Pathways and Distance Education. For fall of 2020, Tanaka is the Peer Online Course Review Lead at Rio Hondo College and is a CTE/Strong Workforce Grant Coordinator for the OEI initiative. Tanaka is also on the Rio Hondo Fitness and Coaching Advisory Committee and is the South Coast Conference Women’s Soccer Representative.