Fall Ball Focus: Janine Tucker 'Going Out as a Family' With Johns Hopkins

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

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


Johns Hopkins players lined up for a team photo poolside at Janine Tucker’s house at their annual get-together the Friday of Labor Day weekend. They gaped as their head coach was the first of her staff to jump fully clothed into the pool.

“We were getting out and half my team jumped in fully clothed,” Tucker said. “Everybody was in the pool. It made my heart really happy.”

Only one week earlier, Tucker had shocked her team again with another leap. She announced to them that she would step away from coaching the Blue Jays following the 2022 spring season — her 29th at Hopkins. Tears and hugs followed what she called the toughest thing she’s ever done in her life.

“It certainly didn’t feel good,” Tucker said. “But it did feel right.”

Tucker assured her team that she won’t be going far, just re-directing the energy that helped make her five-time IWLCA Regional Coach of the Year while creating one of the most successful programs in the country. Tucker has taken Johns Hopkins to the NCAA tournament nine times and amassed more than 300 wins.

“The ‘R’ word is hard for me, to be honest,” Tucker said. “Saying the word ‘retire,’ I think I’m just more changing directions. After coaching for 29 years, I just feel it’s time to change my path a little bit and be able to influence and help and mentor and teach and grow and give of whatever talents I can give to others to help what they’re doing. With this game, with their profession, with themselves as people. I just feel strongly about that.”

Tucker dived into a multitude of tasks when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The author of five books, Tucker tried her hand at a podcast at a friend’s urging. She put together presentations. She worked camps and clinics. She is on USA Lacrosse’s Long-Term Lacrosse Athlete Development Model Committee. She will shift her focus to continuing to help grow the sport and bolster others in the game.

“I am exhilarated. I am inspired. I am excited,” Tucker said. “I’ll probably overwhelm myself — but there are so many things I can get involved with to help the sport and the people in it, and I want to say ‘yes’ to as many things and still have the flexibility to see my boys and care for my dad and be a part of their families. Hopefully it’ll be a win-win.”

Tucker, 54, had a blast at her oldest son Ryan’s wedding in July. Her other son, Devin, is a year younger than him. She also cares for her 87-year-old father who lives with her.

“With coaching, you are heavily invested and spend a tremendous amount of time with your team, and that’s the right way to do it,” Tucker said. “I was starting to feel a little pull there with how often I’m away. All these things were adding up, but what was gnawing at me was, is there a cool new chapter for you that you might be able to do while I still have all this passion and energy that I could help people in a different capacity?”

Taking a leap into something new isn’t totally foreign to Tucker. She engineered Hopkins’ leap from Division III to Division I in 1999, only six years after she was hired after assisting at her alma mater, Loyola.

“Our philosophy was if you want to be one of the big dogs, you have to play the big dogs,” Tucker said. “It was pretty wild to watch us grow and throw ourselves to the wolves and see how we were able to respond. I was super proud.”







She’s coached through a sizeable upgrade in Hopkins’ facilities, everything from seeing the old wooden stands on one side of Homewood Field replaced to this year’s unveiling of the revitalized Ralph S. O’Connor Center for Recreation and Wellness. The athletic department’s progress makes her beam.

On the field, her teams have given her and Hopkins much joy. She took another big leap in 2014 when she scaled a fence to plunge into Lake Michigan in celebration of a road win at Northwestern. Last year, she became just the ninth college women’s coach to win her 300th game with a 13-11 victory at Penn State on April 18.

“My face hurt for three days after that because I was smiling so hard,” said Tucker, who enters her final season with a career mark of 303-171. “I got carpal tunnel in my hands because everybody was texting me and I was trying to text them back. It was such joy for our program. I get that it’s my 300th win, but it was for our program and what the kids that came before that group, to see them celebrate what the current Blue Jays did in such a wonky year, it just gives me the chills talking about it.”

When her final season is over, Tucker has vowed to celebrate and support Hopkins teams as their biggest fan. She will transition to cheerleading for all of the school’s athletic programs and remain a part of the lacrosse family that will have a new head coach for the first time in 30 years. Hopkins will conduct a national search for her successor, though Tucker would like to see associate head coach Tara Singleton take over.

“Coach Tara is my frontrunner,” Tucker said. “She’s been with me 13 years. She’s a phenomenal coach.”

They will coach one more season together this spring. The Blue Jays are hoping for a memorable sendoff for Janine Tucker. Johns Hopkins will host the NCAA final four at Homewood Field.

“I think that it’s just going to be an extra special year,” Tucker said. “Sometimes in life and with COVID, it really made me understand how grateful we need to be every day, and so knowing this will be my last year coaching at Hopkins, everything will be a little more heightened for me.”

JOHNS HOPKINS AT A GLANCE

Johns Hopkins made a commitment to focusing on the mental side of athletics with the addition of Ari Shapiro Miller in the newly created position of Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Mental Health and Performance … Had a school-record 28 Academic All-Big Ten selections last spring … Must replace three leading scorers, led by Aurora Cordingley, who graduated after leading the team with 57 points on 39 goals and 18 assists … Honorable mention All-America defender Annika Meyer’s 45 ground balls last year was the most by a Blue Jay since 2014 … Has four fifth-year seniors back, and brought in eight freshmen but no transfers this year — “For this last year, we’re going out as a family,” Tucker said … Freshman defender Paris Colgain played at Homewood Field on July 30 in the Under Armour All-America Senior Game … Freshman midfielder Jordan Conversano hatched and raised 13 ducklings this summer.

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