Karen Johns has long been a marquee name among Southeastern Conference schools. She came to Florida after spending five years as an assistant at Alabama and was a two-time All-America catcher for South Carolina, as well as gaining experience as a member of the U.S. National team. These are the credentials that first attracted Florida administrators to Johns, but it was her character that hooked them. Johns sees her team as a family. She knows her team as more than just players, but as people. That family atmosphere is what has led to the success that Florida has most recently seen under Johns.
When she first arrived at Florida, Johns' first priority was recruiting to fulfill immediate needs for the 2001 season. She hit the pavement straight from the UF athletic directors' offices, and she quickly acquired an in-state player and a quality hurler to build the Gators' previously thin pitching staff. She has continued to build her pitching staff and her team with players that show the same fire and determination as Johns and her coaching staff. She has also continued her commitment to Florida athletes. Fifteen of her 17 recruits in the last three seasons hail from the Sunshine State. Johns' recruiting efforts show that she is committed to keeping Florida talent in Florida and the future of UF softball is bright.
Another of Johns' early concerns was making the transition a positive experience for the returning players. Johns led her staff in a campaign to expose themselves as coaches to the players. From taking part in conditioning workouts to breakfast meetings at the crack of dawn, the staff was committed to its players. That commitment carries through to each new season, as the group of players, coaches and numerous support staff begin each campaign with an unbelievable amount of trust and caring for one another and an insatiable desire to succeed. Johns has truly made Gator softball a family unit. The 2005 squad exhibits this more than any other squad in Johns' five-year tenure at Florida.
The Florida softball program has taken a real upturn in the last two seasons. After suffering the program's first losing season in 2002, the Gators reached two straight NCAA regionals in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, the Gators improved from a 32-35 record and a two-and-out performance in the Southeastern Conference Tournament the previous year, to 41-25 record, a trip to the SEC semifinals and hosting a NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in the program's history. Florida continued its success in 2004, finishing with a 41-20 record, the fifth 40-plus win season in the eight-year history of the program. The Gators also participated in NCAA Regional play in Tallahassee, the third trip to regionals in four years with Johns at the helm.
Florida also was ranked in the NFCA/USA Today poll for the first time since Johns' first season in 2003. The Gators entered the poll at No. 25 on March 25, 2003 and have been ranked or receiving votes in every poll since then. The USA Softball/ESPN Poll also gave the Gators notice in 2003. Florida was receiving votes in the inaugural poll on Feb. 25, received its first ranking at No. 21 on April 8 and has been in every poll since then. In 2004, Florida earned its highest ranking ever in both polls, peaking as high as No. 15 in the NFCA poll and No. 12 in the USA Softball poll.
Florida has steadily improved in all areas under Johns. Johns lead teams currently hold single season school records in slugging percentage, on base percentage, triples, home runs, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, strikeouts per game, fewest losses, saves, strikeouts, fielding percentage, assists, double plays, lowest stolen bases against average, most runners caught stealing and pickoffs. Her influence on Florida's catchers is especially notable. In her previous four seasons, Johns' catchers have only allowed .653 of runners attempting to steal to get a free base. In the last two seasons, the trio of Ashlie Goble, Kristen Butler and Michelle Diaz have gunned down nearly 50 percent of the runners attempting to steal on them. Johns has had seven players earn 11 All-SEC honors in the last four years, including 2002 Co-Freshman of the Year, Mandy Schuerman. In 2004, the first year of naming an All-Freshman team, three Gators earned the accolades.
The Johns' coached Gators have been as successful in the classroom as they have been on the field. In the last four seasons, the Florida Softball program has had 28 players earn 42 All-SEC Academic honors. Three athletes have earned four ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, and last season, senior Jenny Gladding was named an Academic All-American.
Based on her experience, it is not surprising that Johns is successful with her first program. Johns was Alabama's top assistant during the 2000 season, which culminated in a sixth-place finish in the Women's College World Series. Also during her tenure there, the Tide captured the 1998 SEC Tournament title and made their first NCAA Regional appearance in 1999.
Johns' duties at Alabama included coaching the pitchers and catchers, recruiting, academic and strength and conditioning liason and overall operations. Johns engineered a remarkable pitching staff improvement. In 2000, the staff finished with a 1.70 ERA, a 66-14 record and recorded 19 shutouts, compared to a 2.65 ERA and a 29-29 mark in 1997.
At South Carolina, Johns was a two-time All-American and three-time All-South Region catcher. She was also a Honda Award nominee, the highest honor given in collegiate softball. She began her coaching career as a student assistant under Joyce Compton for the 1989 Gamecock Women's College World Series team. She completed her undergraduate degree in Health and Fitness in 1989 and earned a Master's degree in education in 1991. Following her graduate work, she spent two years as an athletic academic counselor before returning to the coaching ranks as an assistant for the 1994 season.
Following her standout career at USC, Johns took her talents to the international level and led her teams to gold medals in the International Softball Federation World Championships and United States Olympic Festivals.
As a U.S. National team member, her team won medals at the 1990 and 1994 ISF World Championships, the 1994 South Pacific Classic and the 1995 Pan American Games. In 1989 and 1990, she led her team to a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival. She returned to the festival in 1994 and 1995 and her team claimed the bronze medal both times. All this time she was doubling her playing experience with her coaching duties at South Carolina. She did not stop playing until she joined the Alabama staff in 1996. From 1994 to 1996, Johns conducted clinics and private lessons throughout South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Johns is a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and the National Baseball Coaches Association. Prior to coming to Florida, she served as the assistant coaches' representative to the NFCA executive board.
The former Karen Sanchelli is married to former Alabama All-Southeastern Conference defensive back and former West Alabama head football coach, Bobby Johns. The couple has a 7-year-old daughter, Kaci Michelle.
Johns' Coaching Philosophy
Our goal is, and always will be, to make it to the College World Series and consistently be among the best in the country. I believe that takes a team family and hard work from a group of individuals that care about each other and are willing to make the sacrifices to win a national championship.
I want athletes with big dreams and big hearts; everything else can be taught. The program and its successes are properties of the players. It's the teaching that is the true reward and test for me: How well I can teach players to be better than they ever thought they could be.
I believe it is a journey. Along the way, I want them to learn skills the can use for the rest of their lives and live a life they can be proud of, and be a difference makers for themselves and the world around them. I want athletes to have confidence and self-esteem, so they can face the many challenge that their lives will hand them ... to do everything with strength.
Where better to do that than the playing field, where each one is tested daily?
|JOHNS' CAREER HISTORY|
|2001-present||Florida, Head Coach (151-108, .583)|
|2000||Alabama, First Asst. Coach|
|1996-99||Alabama, Asst. Coach|
|1994-96||Sandlot Club (Columbia, S.C.) Softball Clinician|
|1993-94||South Carolina, Asst. Coach|
|1992-93||South Carolina, Athletic Academic Counselor|
|1990-95||International Competition (Gold Medalist, 1990 & 94 ISF World Champ., Gold Medalist, 1989 & 90 U.S. Olympic Festival, Gold Medalist, 1994 South Pacific Classic, Gold Medalist, 1995 Pan American Games, Bronze Medalist, 1994 & 95 U.S. Olympic Festival)|
|1990||South Carolina, Graduate Asst.|
|1989||South Carolina, Student Asst.|
|1985-88||South Carolina, Four-year letter winner, First-team All-America catcher (1987-88), First-team All-South Region catcher (1986-88)|