Coaches are real people too

Coaches deal with the brutal reality of their job while balancing family life


Sharome Burton

Women’s basketball head coach Noel Johnson calls a play during time-out. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 2.

The wins. The losses. The expectations and the pressures. The coaches are the quiet ones, the ones that no one thinks about. They spend hours preparing the team, as well as themselves. But most of all they handle success and adversity differently with simplicity, family and consistency.


Women’s head basketball coach Noel Johnson makes simplicity her key tool through the ups and downs of her coaching career. Johnson played at Texas Tech from 1991-1995 earning personal awards of SWC All-Tournament, Team MVP and first recipient of the Jeannine McHaney Athlete of the year Award in 1994. She helped her team win four straight Southwest Conference Championships, four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and a National Championship in 1993. Johnson was later inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Honor in 2005.

Johnson brought her talent and skill in 2009 to become the women’s head basketball coach and has cultivated more than 125 wins and a Lone Star Conference Title in 2012-13. She gives credit to her former coach, Marsha Sharp, 1982-2006 Texas Tech women’s head basketball coach, to the mindset and culture she has developed within her program.

“Her style was tough love and positivity, and we really had a good atmosphere and a good team. That’s something that I strive for us to have…Culture takes you further than more practice time, [and] more shot attempts. It takes you further because of the mentality you encompass in, a very positive, loving focused culture,” Johnson said.

Johnson learned culture and positivity while assisting under Sharp and learned the art of simplicity while coaching under Tina Slinker, 1989-2008 University of North Texas women’s head basketball coach.

Pullquote Photo

I seek the simpleness of what they do and I think that’s one thing we do as coaches, we try to over complicate things. When it needs to be one or two points, whether its a scout on the team, whether it’s focus on the practice, or whether it’s motivational speech before the game. Even the timeout, you have to keep it simple.”

— Noel Johnson

“Learning a different perspective from coach Slinker at the University of North Texas, the XOXO’s aspect. She really blew my mind how simple she made it and so I think that’s one of the people as far as coaching I’ve been around that taught me how to just keep the game simple for the kids and it keeps the game simple for myself,” Johnson said.

Throughout her years in the basketball sport, Johnson went through a couple of rough patches but learned that keeping things simple is key for herself and her team.

“I seek the simpleness of what they do and I think that’s one thing we do as coaches, we try to over complicate things. When it needs to be one or two points, whether its a scout on the team, whether it’s focus on the practice, or whether it’s motivational speech before the game. Even the timeout, you have to keep it simple,” Johnson said.

By seeking for simplicity in her program and in life, she is able to develop and push others around her to be better.

“I want to develop strong, very confident young females and individual, whether it’s my archery class or basketball team. I want there to be some positive change they get from me,” Johnson said.

Pre-Physical Therapy senior Chelcie Kizart was very “happy” with the whole team being on one page.

“The culture of the team was more so positive and making sure everybody was on the same page. Everybody having a good attitude and make sure everybody was enjoying each other, the coaches and the sport,” Kizart said.



Track coach Koby Styles and his family
Cross country and track head coach, Koby Styles, smiles with his wife and four kids after a track meet.
Photo courtesy Koby Styles

Cross Country and Track Head Coach Koby Styles has found success in combining his family and team as one unit. Styles came to the 2-year-old  program with only five runners and ranked 12th in the conference in 2007. He then worked the program to 15 in the nation and four consecutive Conference Championships 2008-2011. After losing their winning streak in 2012, placing second in the Confernce Championships, Styles learned the lesson of cherishing the teams victories.

”That very next year in 2012 when we lost, I took that very hard, but it probably was the best thing for our program… I took everything for granted because we kept winning and being successful. Now its time to step back and you really enjoy when we win… and moments like that you cherish when that happens because you don’t know when there going to come again. If everyone is buying into the program and loving one another, and trusting the process it just makes it that much greater,” Styles said.

Styles learned to appreciate his program but also he appreciates his family and combining these two aspects together.

“At Midwestern State, where it is so family oriented, you are able to give [my kids] those experiences. Being able to travel to a championship or go to nationals and they are able to hop on a plane with the team and go. Including them in the whole process of everything… If you can incorporate them in the whole process and don’t let your work come in between that and try to handle it and balance it out. It’s a special relationship,” Styles said.

Styles incorporates his four kids and wife in his team, by bringing them to practices, track meets and traveling with the team.

“With your athletes, if you can incorporate them in your family life, whether it’s going to a baseball game or over the house for dinner. When they see that side of their coach, I think they will have a greater appreciation of what they do as a job and maybe even work harder,” Styles said.

Athletic training sophomore Katie Till enjoys the family atmosphere and young energy on the team.

”It makes it a less stressful environment to have some young energy around.  Also they love to cheer us on so we get some extra motivation too!  With all of that, its cute to see his kids look up to all of us and want to do what we do as athletes ,when they grow up,” Till said.


Women's soccer coach
Bridget Reilly
Head coach Ryan Spence talks tactics with his players before the opening game of the 2018 season, against New Mexico Highlands University. August 30. Photo by Bridget Reilly

Women’s soccer head coach Ryan Spence looks to consistency to help him get through the rough patches. Spence started his collegiate journey here in 2008 as a men’s soccer defender. He finished his career in 2011 earning more than 10 awards over the span of four years, including All-Lone Star Conference First Team in 2009 and Lone Star Conference Defender of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Spence later returned as the men’s soccer graduate assistant coach in 2014 was then promoted to women’s head coach in 2018.

“I loved playing and that’s what drove me to [coach], so it’s just games. Playing games and seeing girls develop, getting better this week or that week. So that’s kind of what’s pushing me. I learned a lot playing college soccer. So I hope I am the person I am today outside of soccer because of playing under coach Elder. So I wish I can be that mentor with some of the girls here,“ Spence said.

The women’s soccer team won two games and tied three this season. Spence looks to consistency to help him out of a rut.

“Don’t let them know you’re in a tough spot, I think a lot of times when coaches are in a bad mood, they sometimes pull it over into the players. For me, I preach on the girls, consistency… If I’m [in] a rut or arguing with my wife or arguing with a coworker. It’s being consistent and trying not to let it show,” Spence said.

Biology freshman Senna Garcia understands consistency is important and said she strives to be better evert practice.

“He preaches that to us everyday. At practice we have to make sure our energy is high because if it’s lower than the day before then we aren’t getting better. I feel like he’s right and that consistency is important and makes a huge difference overall,” Garcia said.