One on One with Jane Johnson
Title: Associate Director of Recreational Sports
Years at Scranton: 23
Hometown: Greenfield Twp.
Family: Husband, Rob; sons Tim, 18, and Kevin, 15
Awards/Honors: Pro Deo, Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Conferences (MAC) Freedom Conference “Coach of the Year” for tennis, 2002, 2003 (co-coach) and 2004.
Proudest sports moment: The 2003 tennis season was very successful. We finished 5-1 in the Freedom Conference and made it to the conference championship, which Scranton hosted. After the event, the MAC tennis commissioner sent a letter to Fr. Pilarz (then president of the University), complimenting Scranton’s facilities and the kind treatment he received. The commissioner also said Scranton’s sportsmanship was “exemplary.” We lost the match 5-4 to Moravian, but represented ourselves well as a team and as a University. In the bigger picture, that’s a win for me. Another great moment was the 15-game win streak in the middle of the 2012 softball season that tied a record. That was also very exciting!
You seem to have a lifelong love of tennis. What’s the attraction?
I played tennis just for recreation in high school, mostly with my brothers. The summer between my junior and senior years, I entered a Virginia Slims Tournament that was about 45 minutes from my home. I had no idea what I was getting into. It took me longer to drive there than it did to lose 6-0, 6-0, but it was a great learning experience! It was my first competitive tennis match, but it was at a level I just wasn’t ready for! When I attended Marywood University, I tried out for the tennis team as a sophomore and played for three years. As a player, it was the best team experience I ever had – in any sport.
What is the most gratifying thing about working with student athletes?
Generally speaking, I enjoy seeing the passion that athletes have. Over their four years on campus they excel in the classroom and on the court or field,often earning campus recognition through our athlete of the week posts, conference or even national awards. More times than not, they leave theUniversity realizing and appreciating they were part of a unique group that had the privilege of competing on the collegiate level, but are off to do evenbigger and greater things, as they put their degrees to work. Our student athletes are very talented and work hard athletically and academically.
What is your philosophy as a coach?
My degrees are in education, and I believe my philosophy stems from being a teacher first. I am definitely not a drill sergeant, but you can’t approach the students you coach as strictly a friend either. Successful coaching requires a balance. Beyond skill work, there is always room for teaching teamwork, discipline, self-responsibility and respect. I have a sign in my office that reads, “You have to give respect to get it!” and that’s true no matter what you do in life.
More with Jane Johnson
Did you have a favorite coach or mentor?
As different as every athlete is, every coach I've had has also been different. I'd like to say I've taken something from all of them. In general, I always gotthe impression my coaches cared about me as a person and how I excelled on and off the court or field. They believed in my abilities, encouraged meto always try harder, and to win and lose graciously.
You coach both softball and tennis. What are the differences and similarities?
Coaching tennis is dynamic because one particular player can be playing phenomenally and you don't have to say much. By the time you get to anothercourt, that player could be having a rough day, so your focus shifts and your coaching skills kick in. With tennis, you're focusing more on individualplayers, while in softball, the entire team's emotions tend to feed off of a great defensive play or a nice hit -- or even sometimes an untimely error! Youstill interact individually, but the team culture is more prevalent with softball.
Having championship teams must be exhilarating. Can you tell us about your favorite moments?
I have coached Little League, high-school age and now on the collegiate level. A quote from an unknown youth coach that I prize is, “Professionalcoaches measure success in rings. College coaches measure success in championships. High school coaches measure success in titles. Youthcoaches measure success in smiles.” In collegiate sports, it's also nice to see the smiles. Winning is always a goal, but I like to use character as ameasure of an athlete. I would rather have a team with a mediocre record that tries its best, than an undefeated team full of whiners. My favoritemoments have not just been big wins or the number of wins, but more specifically, key down-the-line game winners -- diving catches that stopped a biginning, or the hit after a 0-for-10 slump.
With all the sports that fill your daily life, do you still enjoy watching Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA...anything like that?
I enjoy watching all sports. ESPN is my No. 1 channel! I have followed the New York Yankees since I was little and was a huge Don Mattingly fanbecause of his work ethic. I think Derek Jeter became my next favorite and I doubt anyone would question his approach to what he does.
With the growing emphasis on physical education in grade schools, can you tell us why it is also important to continue that emphasis in college?
Physical Education encourages students to be active and involved. With all the health problems we have as a population, its imperative that physicalactivity be a priority in everyone's day. Team sports aren't for everyone or available to everyone, that's when there are other opportunities such astennis, racquetball, swimming, golf, skiing, walking… the list can go on. I walk a lot which has been very good for my physical health and my mentalstate too. The key is realizing there is a positive correlation between exercise and your health. As the saying goes… If you have your health, you haveyour wealth.
You are also involved with intramural and rec programs. What are the goals of these activities?
What do you want these students to take from theexperience?Once again, everyone is different. Some students enjoy the competition that the intramural programs offer, while others are happy to use the poolduring open swim; run on a treadmill in the fitness center; or attend an aerobics class. The rec staff encourages everyone to get involved in somethingthat meets their needs while promoting a healthy lifestyle and appropriate use of leisure time. Being active is the key.
You have a degree in elementary education. In what ways is a coach also a teacher?
As educators we help students develop intellectually, socially and emotionally. Athletes also grow physically, socially and emotionally. It's usually thesocial and emotional components that require the most coaching! Developing character and respect are critical for me. Our society is so focused onhaving to be No. 1, getting the job that pays the most money, living in the biggest and most beautiful house, or driving the nicest car. The lesson for meis more about realizing what is the fair and the right thing to do, then doing it to the best of your ability. Personally, I try to end each day with a bit ofgratitude too.