Husband, Wife Coaching Staff Find Balance
Jay and Heather Johnson are competitive people.
Jay recounts stories from early in their marriage—stories of not-so-casual grocery cart races from the store to their car that often involved one of them being knocked over and races to see who could put the case on their pillow first when changing the bed sheets. “We just can’t be on opposite teams,” Jay said.
It is a good thing they are both on the Lady Lancers’ softball coaching staff.
The Johnsons came to Grace College last season after being gone a decade and a half. As one of the most decorated athletes in Grace history, Heather was no stranger to the softball program. In fact, she was elected into the inaugural class of the Grace College Lancer Hall of Fame in 2008 with a record 86 wins and 0.92 ERA over her career.
What is unique about this tandem, though, is Heather is the head coach and Jay is the assistant. Although they are in circumstances that could potentially pose problems for others, the coaching duo has excelled. “We’ve had a lot of people ask us how we work together, but there’s never been any major disagreement with us coaching together,” Heather said.
So how do they work together? The Johnsons came to Grace with the foundation already laid, having already coached and worked together. “After 15 years and running four businesses together, you know what buttons to push and what not to push,” Jay explained. Jay has always helped with Heather’s previous coaching jobs, but not to the extent he has at Grace.
It does not take much to see the differences between the two coaches. Heather has the administration, organization and detail-oriented side, while Jay brings the vision and vocal leadership. “He’s the one pushing people in the weight room, while I’m the one sitting down and talking with them,” Heather joked.
Yet their differences allow them to complement each other. There are times when Jay’s intensity is necessary and times where Heather’s laid-back approach works better. And the softball program is better because of it.
Still, everything does not always run perfectly. Heather explains that sometimes she needs to take charge as head coach. “As a wife, you want to let your husband take the lead, but he’s still my assistant. Sometimes you have to take it back and make adjustments when it’s yours.”
It is not as hard as could be expected for Jay to follow Heather. He says, “I respect her as my head coach, but also my wife.” In turn, Heather praised his humility. “He always wants to do what’s right and accepts correction very well.”
The most difficult thing Jay and Heather have to deal with, however, is at home. With three kids, the Johnsons must balance time at softball with time with family. “In a sense we often leave home unmanned, but we have a great support group of friends that help us,” Heather said. “We talk about softball all the time at home, but we have to set apart time at home with no softball so our home is not overshadowed by softball.”
Nevertheless, the Johnson family is intertwined with the softball program. The entire family, kids and all, have gone on three trips this spring with the softball team. It seems the Johnsons’ kids have picked up on college life fairly quickly. “It’s funny to hear them talk about college all the time,” Heather said. “How many 5 or 7-year-old kids talk about their future majors or roommates?”
Jay summed up their relationship as a divine arrangement. “God knew what he was doing when he brought us together.”
By Zane Gard
This story was published in the April 29 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.