Rookie soccer coach brings the energy

Oct. 9, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa — It appears first-year University of Iowa assistant soccer coach Jameil Johnson is a perfect fit.

“It was a no-brainer for us,” UI head coach Ron Rainey said. “She’s got great love for the game and great respect for the game.”

Johnson, who played goalkeeper at the University of Tennessee for four seasons, as well as the Chicago Red Stars of the Women’s Professional Soccer league for a year, said the decision to join the Iowa staff was easy.

“Being my first coaching job, who better to learn from than Ron and (assistant coach) Shane (Meredith),” the 2008 SEC tournament Most Valuable Player said. “Nobody has ever had a bad thing to say about those two — they’re great mentors.”

Rainey knew the type of personality the Hawkeye soccer program was getting when Johnson was hired. The two were familiar with each other through mutual friends and Rainey didn’t pass up the chance to add Johnson to the staff.

“Jameil’s going to be a great coach,” Rainey said. “She’s someone that demands a lot from the players, but she’s loose and relaxed and wants the girls to have fun out on the field.”

Being a goalkeeper throughout her playing career, Johnson has exclusively taken over instructing the Hawkeye goalies, lead by junior and three-year starter Emily Moran. Moran, who recorded seven saves in Friday night’s 3-1 loss to Ohio State. Moran says the team has taken a liking to Johnson and her coaching tactics.

“She brings a lot of energy to the team which is a different view than we had last year,” Moran said. “She really pumps us up. Everybody loves Jameil as our coach.”

While the added spark she brings to the Hawkeyes is valuable, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Johnson’s resume is her short time away from the game.

“It wasn’t too long ago when I was in their shoes, so I can relate to what they’re going through now,” Johnson said. “It helps because I know where they’re coming from based on my playing experience, but I can also give them a coach’s perspective.”

“She was there just a couple of years ago,” Moran said of Johnson. “It’s nice to have someone a little closer to our age because she knows what we’re going through and knows the game a little bit better and that helps us a lot.”

It is imperative on any team that the coaches get to know their players not only in regard to tendencies on the field, but also on a personal level.

“We have a really good relationship with great communication,” Johnson said of Moran. “We work off of each other and she knows she can easily talk to me about anything. “Our relationship is definitely growing,” added Moran.

That growing relationship has benefitted Moran, who is quickly rising up the charts as one of the top goalkeepers to ever wear the black and gold. Moran has been improving throughout her career and Johnson has taken notice.

“Emily has been doing a phenomenal job in goal and has made great strides from last year and even from pre-season till now,” Johnson said. “She has really been working on the little things that will take her from being a good goalkeeper to a great one.”

Johnson seems to have taken up the coaching thing down pretty well, but after living in Knoxville, Tenn., and Chicago the past few years, how has she adapted to the Iowa City way of life?

“It’s not too bad at all,” she said with a smile.

The Hawkeyes return to action Sunday, Oct. 10, against Penn State beginning at 1 p.m. inside the Iowa Soccer Complex.