Coach Thomson missing her therapy
For the past 21 years, Joanne Thomson has been a coach of all trades at A.N. Myer Secondary School in Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Falls native and Myer alumna has been the head coach of boys volleyball and the girls soccer teams for her entire time at the school, has been the head coach of the track team for the past nine years, and has served as the head coach of the senior girls volleyball team for the past couple of seasons. She has also had stints as the statistician of the boys basketball team.
Like all her fellow high school coaches, Thomson watched in dismay as the COVID 19 pandemic shuttered high school sports last March and eliminated the spring season for many sports, including track and field and soccer.
“At first I thought it was going to be a nice break because I had never contemplated a break before,” she said. “When my day started in September, I would coach right through until June.”
She ‘enjoyed’ her break from high school sports for less than a month.
“By the third week, I was waking up and saying to (husband) Terry, that I was supposed to have a soccer tournament today. I was supposed to be at track today,” she said. “Wow! By the time June came around, I couldn’t even talk about it because I was missing it so much.
“It becomes part of who you are, it’s therapeutic for me and I really miss that part.”
She also misses the exercise involved with coaching.
“Just being a part of practice three or four times a week is really good for me.”
She has been able to use her away time from coaching to spend more time with her own kids and help out her parents.
Thomson is skilled with the Xs and Os and has had plenty of success as a coach, but her core philosophy about coaching is anything but hardcore.
“My big thing is to have fun and for me that is part of my passion because I loved playing so much and I had so much fun. My best friends are all through sports and I want to help bring that to the kids,” she said. “Kids that play travel sports sometimes say that they don’t know if their coaches are going to let them play but I always remind them that this (high school sports) is the fun stuff. It’s a different philosophy and I want the kids to really enjoy it.
Thomson was part of the 1985 A.N. Myer soccer team that won an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship and earned induction into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame in 2003. She also played volleyball and basketball at Myer but is clear about her preferred sport.
“That is a tough one but my true passion is soccer. I played up until I was 45 and I just love the sport.”
She believes it is important for teachers to coach.
“You get to know the kids in a whole different way. Their behaviour in the classroom is often different than their behaviour on the court or on the field and I think the kids will often gain a newfound respect for teachers who are going to put their time out for them.”
She is a big proponent high school sports.
“I really hope that high school sports stay as a big part of school because for so many kids it is so important. It gets them attached to the school,” she said. “You take a look at the Myer spirit and the spirit at so many other schools and it’s all around the sports programs.”
That spirit has been ingrained at Myer forever.
“Looking back to my own time at high school, I remembered how much I loved playing. So many athletes that you talk to, they remember high school,” she said. “I think they will keep going partly because of the money they have put into all of our facilities. It is important because it helps keep kids involved and it keeps some of them coming to school.”
The highlight of her coaching career has been the chance to coach her son, Tyler, and daughter, Mary. She coached Tyler in volleyball and Mary in track.
Myer sports has been a family affair for the Thomsons. Her husband Terry has had stints coaching basketball at Myer and her parents, Mary and Stan Mach, were always in the stands.
“It kind of brought the family to school,” she said.
After attending Myer, Thomson attended Western and graduated with degree in physical education. She earned her teaching degree at Daemen College in Buffalo and started teaching at Westbrook Secondary School in Welland. That was followed up by stints at Ridgeway-Crystal Beach Secondary School, Orchard Park elementary school, Eastdale and E.L. Crossley before arriving at A.N. Myer where teaches phys-ed and special needs.