Behind the Whistle: Three Questions for Janine Tucker


Janine Tucker, 54, enters her final season at Johns Hopkins with a career mark of 303-171.

This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Janine Tucker is the head coach at Johns Hopkins University and is entering her final season before retirement.

[Editor’s Note: From time to time, we will feature a short Q&A with an IWLCA member coach. The format will be one question about lacrosse, one question about life and one fun question.]

1. Name two players that you loved coaching and tell us why they were so much fun to work with.

That’s a loaded question because I have been blessed and have loved coaching all my players! I haven’t felt like I have worked a day in my life at Hopkins for 29 years because of the fun, joy and energy my players have brought to me and our program! However, there are two unique stories I would like to share.

Anita Patibandla

Anita showed up at my office in the very first year of my coaching career, introduced herself and shared that she was a lacrosse goalie and volleyball player. She was a tall (5-10), string bean of an athlete — very unassuming, very chill — yet had a presence about her. She asked if she could try out for our team. “Sure thing,” I said. Thank God I did, as Anita left Hopkins as one of the greatest two-sport athletes in school history.

As a goalie, she was one of the fastest players on my team. I had no idea this kid could run like she did! We designed a ride around her because she could come out of the cage and mark up like a defender. She was an interception and ground ball magnet! She would start our fast-breaks, literally sprinting up the entire field, pass to an attacker and then high five her in our offensive end after she scored. It blew our opponents minds seeing a goalie that tall, agile and fast in our offensive end as much as she was! I LOVED that she owned her speed and her unique ability to spark our team in so many different ways.

Anita anchored a defense that helped us to a four-year record of 52-15 with three Centennial Conference titles and three trips to the NCAA Division III tournament. She led Hopkins to the NCAA semifinals during her freshman and junior seasons, and we compiled a 39-1 record in Centennial Conference play during her career. As a four-year starter, Anita still holds the school record for minutes played by a goalie, goals against average (7.53) and saves and ranks fourth in school history in career save percentage. Anita was not recruited. She asked to try out because she loved the game, loved being on a team and loved competing. She showed up every day, gave me her very best and did it with humility, passion, heart and a huge smile. Anita was the epitome of the kind of player every coach wants … a positive, consummate teammate, a fierce competitor and an incredible leader and representative of our program. From a walk-on to the 1998 Centennial Conference Player of the Year. I was blessed to have such an impact player show up to my office and ask if she could try out.

Mary Ann McGuire

What is special about Mary Ann’s story is that she never picked up a lacrosse stick before coming to Hopkins. She graduated as the Centennial Conference Player of the Year and the 1997 National Division III Defensive Player of the Year. She also received the Catherine P. Cramer Award as Johns Hopkins’ best female athlete.

Mary Ann played field hockey for me at Hopkins, and the second I saw her run, I thought, “Oh Lord, she could be something special as a lacrosse player.” Something special she was. Mary Ann quickly turned into a ground ball machine, mostly because her throwing and catching skills had not quite caught on! In her senior year, Mary Ann led a defensive unit that allowed just 7.06 goals a game, eighth best in Division III at the time. She paced the Blue Jays in all key statistical categories for defenders — ground balls, draw controls, interceptions and caused turnovers.

What I loved the most about Mary Ann was her incredible determination and work ethic. She truly MADE herself a great lacrosse player. She asked the older players to help her when she was just learning how to play. Mary Ann put in countless hours working on her skill sets. She remained humble and hungry. She was a star in field hockey and found herself working her way onto the field from the bench in lacrosse. She handled both with grace and always put the team first. Never took anything for granted. Loved the process of learning and growing. Fought for and earned every minute, every statistic and every award she received.

Naturally gifted with speed, she was also a gifted leader. I loved watching her grow and succeed in our program. Never played lacrosse to national defensive player of the year! So proud!

2. What do you think is the best thing a young person can do to develop her leadership skills?

Have the courage to speak up! Find and use your voice. Stand in your truth and speak your truth.

Leadership involves doing and saying things with conviction. So, if you start at a young age — offering suggestions, answering questions and generally speaking up — it will become easier and easier to do so. That, in turn, will help you develop the skill sets and have the confidence to influence, impact, motivate and inspire others. Always remember the importance of eye contact, good body language and a great smile! These things will take you far! It is not so much what you say, but HOW you say it. Pay attention to how your tone and the inflection in your voice affects others; you have the ability, when you speak up, to positively impact another’s life!

Finally, when speaking with someone, do so in a way that makes them feel like they are the most important person on earth. My mom taught me that. Thanks, Lovey.

3 – Netflix called ... and they want you to serve as a producer on a reboot of the classic show “Coach,”​ centered around a collegiate women’s lacrosse coach. Who in the coaching world do you recommend they base the main character on and why?

This is easy. I would have them base the show around Diane Geppi-Aikens. I would have her as the star of the show.

“Coach” was a classic show starring Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox. Coach Fox was intense yet kind-hearted, and he was fiercely protective of his daughter, his players and his staff. That’s Diane to a “T.” She was as intense as they come yet would bend over backwards to help someone in need. She had a HUGE heart and loved her players like Coach Fox did.

Diane’s world revolved around her four children — Michael, Jessica, Melissa and Shannon — and her players. She would always put them first and LOVED being a mom and coach. Coach Fox treated his staff like family. Ditto for Diane. Any assistant coach who was lucky enough to work for Diane was valued, mentored and encouraged to be their own person. Coach Fox loved mentoring his staff and players. Diane took that to another level.

She would be a fantastic person to base the main character around, as she was hilarious, went to the beat of her own drum, was conscientious, was a dynamic leader and evoked energy and passion out of everyone she met. I believe the show “Coach” used sports and the role of coaches and players to mirror real life. So many life lessons are learned through the interactions of coaches and players and the experiences they have together. That is right up Diane’s alley. Diane knew she influenced and impacted people at a much deeper level than a normal person could. It was her gift. She knew the power of love and the importance of lifting people up. And she used her profession to do just that for hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I miss her. Love you, Di.

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