By Beth COX
As the quote goes, “A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.”
The female coaches of Johnson County Middle and High School have done a lot of winking because they are some of the strongest and caring coaches in this region.
Many of these ladies have been coaching for years, while others are just starting out. Some are coaching more than one sport, while others are returning to coaching after taking time off.
Whatever their background, the coaches of Johnson County Middle and High School all share similar characteristics; love for the kids, love of the sport, hard work ethic and a passionate “never give up attitude.”
High School Basketball:
Kechia Eller is going on her third year as an assistant basketball coach for the high school. The 2019-2020, basketball team is special to her because she has followed the upperclassmen from middle school to high school. She knows this team can have an exciting year if they work hard.
Eller has loved basketball since she was a child. She loves coaching because she can continue to be involved in the game she loves and help young athletes who love it as well and want to be better.
Coach Eller received her M.S. degree in Physical Education from Milligan College; she teaches Physical Education at the high school.
High School Cheerleading:
Michelle Walters and Jennifer Harry
Michelle Walters saw the importance of cheerleading as a young cheerleader at Gleason High School. She expressed the importance of school pride, which is the essence of cheering. Walters has been coaching for about six years.
She says, she “loves her “cheer babies” and gives them all the credit for the success of the cheerleading program at JCHS.”
Walters feels it is essential for the squad to be a united team.
“The girls are strong, with a tenacious spirit that allows nothing less than perfection,” she said. “Very few people realize how hard cheerleaders work to support both the football and basketball team.”
Walters received her B.S. in Human Learning from UT Martin. She has been teaching for Johnson County Schools for about fifteen years.
Jennifer Harry graduated from JCHS and TN Tech. She is now the newest member of the cheerleading squad. She will be coaching with Walters. Harry is excited to be a part of the team and giving support and encouragement to the girls. She feels making connections and forming relationships with the girls will be invaluable to her as a coach and to the success of the team.
Middle School Volleyball:
Dottie Sue Phipps and Amy Tester
Dottie Sue Phipps is the middle school volleyball coach. She has coached for twenty-nine years at JCMS, and played volleyball in high school and feels fortunate to be able to coach at the middle school. Phipps received her B.S. at Emory and Henry and M.S. at Tusculum College.
She is excited about the upcoming school year and starting the season with her new assistant, Amy Tester and is confident that Tester is a great addition to the team.
Tester is a graduate of JCHS and played under Coach Phipps.
“She was an amazing role model when I was a player, so I look forward to working alongside her now as a coach,” Tester said about Phipps. “I feel I can motivate and encourage the girls; the varsity girls have a strong bond with each other.”
Tester looks forward to watching the JV Team grow and become part of the team family.
High School Band:
Kaitlyn Cole has been the band director at JCHS for two years. She said that she is not a coach, but that she is at most football and basketball games cheering on the JCHS football team through music.
“My students and I are determined to bring the band back to its best form, to make the band the pride of the county.”
Cole loves the band because it is a judge-free zone that celebrates creativity. She wants her students to bring that creativity to her students and help them be better musicians.
Cole graduated from ETSU with a B.S. in Instrumental Music Education.
High School Softball:
Emily Harrison just finished her first year as the assistant softball coach. She was excited when Coach Greg Reece asked her to be his assistant because she has loved the sport since she was a child. She loves her players and feels they are the strength of the team. She is inspired by the girls and loves how they remind her to have fun. She states, “I love teaching, but coaching is a different type of bond that I’m blessed to be a part of.”
Harrison attended Unaka High School and graduated from ETSU with a B.S. and M.S. in teaching.
She now teaches criminal justice at the Johnson County High School. She is also a graduate from Appalachian School of Law.
High School Volleyball:
Michele Cooke is returning to the game she loves after being absent from the sport for about twelve years. She returned to coaching to give back to the kids what was given to her as a player. She states, “It is an awesome experience to see progress and the positive results of hard work.” She gets her strength as a coach from her family, assistant coach Sarah Jennings, and from other coaches and players. The strength of her volleyball team is experience and positive attitudes. The success of the volleyball team will be dependent on the girls’ ability and desire to work hard, and play as a team.
Cooke received her B.S. in Mathematics and Foreign Languages from ETSU, M.S. in Instructional Leadership from Radford University and her Ed.S. in Educational Administration and Supervision from Lincoln University. She has been teaching for Johnson County Schools for twenty-three years.
Middle School Basketball:
Sarah Jennings and Haley Miller
Sarah Jennings and Haley Miller are the girls’ basketball coaches. They have played together in high school and have coached together for about four years. Jennings is the girls’ head basketball coach but is out of town on her honeymoon. Congratulations Coach Jennings on your marriage.
Miller is the JCMS girls’ softball coach and has been coaching now for four years. She has played softball since she was nine years old.
She has also coached basketball and volleyball but is passionate about softball.
Miller had the opportunity to assist with the high school softball team before becoming an assistant coach for the team. She has had a lot of success with the middle school softball team. The team won the district championship and placed first in the conference.
She appreciates her team for teaching her how to succeed and become a better coach.
“There is nothing comparable to doing something you love, and I genuinely love teaching these young ladies how to play one of the greatest games of all time,” Miller said.
Miller teaches technology to all elementary schools.
Middle School Cheerleading:
Morgan Sollenberger, the new cheerleading coach for the middle school, is excited about new beginnings and getting her team together. She feels cheerleading is sometimes overlooked as a sport, but she feels that it is essential to the atmosphere of the game. Her background is in gymnastics, which will be an asset to the cheerleading squad.
Sollenberger has a B.A. in history and M.Ed. from Emory and Henry.