By Josh Beavers
Hidden down on the south end of the parish is an athletic gem carved out of the Piney Woods. It’s Lakeside, a small school that is home to something unique in local school sports. There are four separate teams helmed by female head coaches. That’s a remarkable achievement at any level much less a school with a high school enrollment of less than 300.
The Journal will publish a pair of Q&A stories this summer posing questions to these women about the importance of sports programs and the unique difference between a male coach and a female coach when it comes to mentoring young women in athletic competitions.
First up is LHS softball coach Roo Johnson and junior high softball coach Emily Maness.
The Journal: What made you want to coach at Lakeside?
Johnson: The family atmosphere and the competitive spirit from faculty and administration. The opportunity to continue mentoring female athletes to reach their full potential.
Maness: I honestly love the kids the most. I know we have some of the best kids in Webster Parish, and I love seeing their love and drive for sports and education. I have also created some of the best memories with kids from Lakeside.
The Journal: What is your hope for the athletic programs in the future?
Johnson: My hope is to continue to build from a strong program and develop talent and grow young women into strong, confident, successful women, while trying to compete for a state title.
Maness: My hope for the athletic programs is that we continue to grow and become better each year. I also hope that we learn to evolve each year and not think that we have to keep doing the same things over and over.
The Journal: Lakeside is unique in the fact you are a small school but have several female coaches. Do you think female athletes relate better to you than they would a male coach? Why?
Johnson: I love the uniqueness of Lakeside with the small size. It makes it feel like a family. I think that it’s important for any young female or male to have strong role models. I’m excited for my young boys to have strong male role models at Lakeside, as I am sure parents can be excited to have strong female role models for their daughters’ lives. Whether we are coaches or teachers, it’s a blessing to have so many wonderful individuals for our youth to look up to.
Maness: I believe that female athletes relate better to me than they do a male coach because I understand what it’s like to be in their position. I know what it’s like to be a female athlete, so I can understand some of their needs more than a male coach can. I can relate to them more.
The Journal: Why do you love coaching in general? What made you want to become a coach?
Johnson: I love coaching because I love watching a kid struggle at something and keep striving to focus on the process and eventually have success. To see the pride and confidence gained in a young person when they complete a task that they once weren’t able to do is so amazing. It is what fuels me. I have always loved building relationships with kids and families. I have lasting friendships from coaching. And what made me want to be a coach was having so many strong coaches in my life that helped shape me into the person I am today. And I wanted to be that to someone.
Maness: I love coaching because I love softball. I want to instill that love for softball into my players. When I played softball in high school, I knew that I would come back and coach one day. I knew that softball was something that I was good at, and I wanted to know everything about it. I worked hard every time I stepped on that field and by senior year I was awarded the “Gotta Love It” Award which to me was the highest award I could ever receive. Ever since I graduated, I have wanted to get back on the field, and that’s exactly what coaching allows me to do. It’s even better now because I get to watch girls learn and grow and fall in love with the same sport that I love so much.
PHOTO: Lakeside Jr. High School softball coach Emily Maness is one of four female head coaches at Lakeside. That is unique in local sports.