While born in East Orange, New Jersey, Jennings-Gabarra grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, California where she attended Palos Verdes High School from 1980 to 1983. During her four seasons playing high school soccer, she scored 226 goals and was a four-time High School All-American and a three-time California Most Valuable Player.
After high school, Jennings-Gabarra attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where she played on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos women's soccer team from 1983 through 1986. In 1984, Jennings-Gabarra set the NCAA Division I women's soccer single-season records for goals (34), goals per game (1.55), points (80), and points per game (3.64).
She finished her college career holding numerous NCAA Division I women's soccer records including 102 goals scored, 1.29 goals per game, 60 assists, 0.76 assists per game, 264 points, and 3.34 points per game.
She was named as a second-team All-American in 1984 and 1985 and a third-team All-American in 1987. She graduated from UCSB in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Gabarra was named the school’s Athlete of the Decade and in 1991 the university inducted Gabarra into its Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Soccer America selected Jennings-Gabarra to its College Team of the Century.
Jennings-Gabarra played with The Los Angeles Blues (now the Southern California Blues) and later with Southern California Ajax of Manhattan Beach, California. In 1992 and 1993, Ajax won the USASA National Amateur Cup. Jennings and defender Joy Biefeld-Fawcett both were members of the Manhattan Beach club women's soccer team Ajax in the late 1980s and early 1990s and routinely played at Columbia Park in Torrance, California. In 1991, Ajax won the U.S. women's amateur championship.
In 1993, Los Angeles United of the Continental Indoor Soccer League drafted Jennings.
Jennings-Gabarra’s fame rests on her achievements with the United States women's national soccer team. During her ten-year career, spanning 1987 to 1996, she earned 117 caps and scored 53 goals.
During the early 1990s, Jennings-Gabarra was part of the national team’s "Triple-Edged Sword". The term, coined by the Chinese media during the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup, included two other prolific scorers, April Heinrichs and Michelle Akers. Of those three players, Akers scored ten goals at the World Cup to claim the Golden Boot, while Jennings-Gabarra added six as the tournament’s second leading scorer. Jennings helped the U.S. national team win the first women's World Cup. She was also selected as the Golden Ball Award winner as the tournament’s top player.
In 1995, the Jennings-Gabarra and her team mates came up short in the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup, losing to Norway in the semifinals. Gabarra with her team finished third in Sweden 1995, with a 2–0 win over China in the third-place playoff match.
In 1996, the U.S. won the first women’s Olympic soccer tournament. Following the tournament, she retired from playing international soccer.
Carin Jennings-Gabarra competed in Atlanta 1996 Olympics, China 1991 and Sweden 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments; played 16 matches and scored 6 goals at those 3 global tournaments. Jennings-Gabarra with her teams won a gold medal at Atlanta, finished first at China 1991 and third at Sweden 1995.
Gabarra began coaching following her graduation from UCSB in 1987. That year, Westmont College, located in Santa Barbara, California hired her as its women’s soccer coach. After one season, she moved to Harvard where she was an assistant coach. In 1993, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland, hired Gabarra as its women’s soccer coach. At the time the women’s team competed at the club level. She developed it into a competitive Division I NCAA team.
In 2000, Gabarra was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2003, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
In 1992, Gabarra married U.S. men’s national team player Jim Gabarra. They have two daughters and one son. Gabarra is a member of the U.S. Soccer Athlete Advisory Council, the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Advisory Council and the Maryland Physical Fitness Council.
World Cup Winner1991
Olympic Gold Medal1996
US National Amateur Cup1992, 1993
California Prep MVP1981, 1982, 1983
High School All American1980, 1981, 1982, 1983
NCAA Division I All American1984, 1985, 1986
FIFA World Cup Golden Ball1991
US Soccer Athlete of the Year1987, 1992
U.S. Olympic Player of the Year1987, 1992
National Soccer Medal of Honor2001
Hall of FameNational Soccer Hall of Fame
U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
American Youth Soccer Organization Hall of Fame