College athletic coaches can be years in the making, but sometimes the cards, or in the case of Belfast Area High School graduate Jamie Jackson, golf balls, fall your way.

After four seasons as a player on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute golf team, and an assistant coach for a season, Jackson took the next step, and became head coach of the school's team in the summer of 2017. He has been head coach for two seasons.

"[I felt] excitement and honor," said Jackson, also of Islesboro. "The opportunity to influence the college program you competed for is a rare one, and I was so excited to pursue [this opportunity]."

"During the 2016-2017 season I was an assistant coach," Jackson said. "During that season my main role was recruiting. My coach, Miles Nolan, was ready to move on from coaching following that season, which was his 14th. I had stayed in the Troy, N.Y. area and coach Nelson asked if I was interested in the job. Not too long after telling him that I'd love to pursue the opportunity, I received the offer from RPI athletics."

Spending four years as a college player and one as an assistant coach, helped Jackson learn the "fundamentals" of coaching.

"[Nelson] taught me as a coach, you have to have a fundamental level of trust in your players in order for them succeed," Jackson said. "He always provided encouragement to me when I played on the team, and insisted that I had the physical ability. All I needed to do was believe that in my mind and succeed. That is something that I continue to communicate to my players today, to prevent their minds from getting in the way of their athleticism."

That trust had already been built up, as Jackson had a young nucleus of players in his first year as a coach on the links.

"[My first] year was awesome," said Jackson. "I was fortunate to receive a very young and talented team comprised of a senior, two sophomores and six freshmen. Thus, the class of freshmen was the first class I recruited, and they far exceeded my expectations, which made for an exciting year. Being 23 years old at the time, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity."

According to the RPI athletics page, Jackson led the team to top-three finishes in eight of the 10 events in which they competed. The Engineers won the five-team Centre College Spring Invitational, and were second in six events, including the season-ending Liberty League Championship.

"The most difficult, yet likely the most important thing that I'm still learning as a coach is winning is not an effective benchmark to assess your team by," Jackson said. "When I played for the team, the amount of success each year was determined by the number of wins we had, and wins I had individually."

"However, I'm learning now that it's more important to instill a culture that develops qualities winners possess, such as discipline, ability to healthily self-criticize performance and motivation," said Jackson. "Development of these characteristics may lead to wins, but more importantly, it will produce RPI golfers that are better prepared for the world they face after college golf."

Jackson has been part of the Engineers' golf program for seven years, and his passion for the team he once played for, continues to push him.

"It keeps me motivated," Jackson said. "Motivated to take the program I played for to places it has never been, but also keeps me motivated to work on my golf game personally. Every day I coach, I gain a further appreciation of how special the RPI golf experience is, and how well it can prepare young men for the next stage of life after college."