Unexpected badminton coach Dawn Johnson is perfect fit.
October 17, 2017 by Ellie Simpson , Arizona State University
Six girls file into the gym and take to three badminton courts as coach Dawn Johnson follows behind.
Pairing up the matches, Johnson begins to circle the courts, pointing out missed opportunities and instructions to those struggling.
After laying out how the final practice of the season would play out, a relaxed feeling falls over the gym. Jokes and discussion of the last team dinner fills the air.
Johnson, a former book store manager at McClintock and currently at the district office, began coaching the team four years ago when asked.
Johnson also coaches basketball in the winter, so although the sport was new to her, the position was not.
“I pretty much started coaching because they needed a coach,” Johnson said. “I’ve been learning as I go, and the girls help with that.”
A main goal that has been maintained and eventually met each season is to fill the roster. The team has six eligible players, with three of them as varsity players. Advertising throughout the school and freshman P.E. classes has been a strategy Johnson has adopted in order to continue to help the program grow.
“I love coaching,” Johnson said. “I was happy to take the position to help the team.”
Outside of a backyard, Johnson has never played badminton competitively, although the average eye would not be able to tell.
“It’s a quick game,” Johnson said. “It’s very fundamental. I don’t think a lot of people realize how athletic it is.”
Stepping in to instruct a player on form or technique comes with such ease and comfort to Johnson, creating a trust between player and coach.
“We’re really comfortable with her,” senior Kayla Gonzalez said. “The relationship between the team has improved because of her.”
Although the Chargers are ranked 32 with a 1-11 record, Johnson has been focusing her attention more on the players as individuals as the state championship tournament approaches.
Working with a group primarily made up of seniors, Johnson is striving to finish strong for the girls last year, sending the select few to Independence High School, the host of the tournament.
“She bases our practice off of what everyone needs improvement on,” senior Brienna Dobbs said. “She’ll go around and help us, pairing girls with who she thinks would balance our improvements.”
Although Johnson pushes the girls, jokes and laughs ease the competitive tension that is associated with most athletics.
“We love her,” Dobbs said. “We have our jokes, and she relaxes us while still helping us learn and compete.”