The leader of the ‘Pack’

Published 9:05 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Washington’s first-year tennis coach Phedora Johnson poses for a picture in front of the Washington High School tennis courts. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

At one point in her life Phedora Johnson was afraid of heights, but that was before she taught herself to ski. It’s that kind of mixture of fearlessness, combined with the willingness to take on new challenges and overcome them, that should lead to plenty off success for Washington’s new tennis coach.
Johnson, Washington’s 2010 Teach of the Year, takes over the tennis racquet from Michelle Elks, who stepped down from her position after a successful stint with the Pam Pack.
Johnson has taught Spanish at Washington High School for the last seven years and feels that a lot of the qualities that make her such a good teacher will enable her to have success on the court.
“I think being a teacher and a coach are transferable skills,” Johnson said. “I think that a lot of tennis is encouragement, just as a lot of my teaching is encouragement. It’s getting kids to do what they never thought they would be able to do.”
Washington athletic director Allison Jones said that aside from being able to teach tennis, Johnson provides a good presence for the young athletes.
“Phedora helped with the tennis team several years ago and I know that she is a tennis player and is a great role model for the kids,” Jones said. “She’s our current Teacher of the Year and she is just a great representative for Washington High School and she is very excited about her new role as Washington tennis coach.”
As a child, Johnson fell in love with the sport after watching some of the game’s greats like Bjorn Borg and Martina Navaratilova. When Johnson was in the fourth grade she and her sister would wake up early in the morning to play with Washington track coach William O’Pharrow, who is a Washington Walk of Famer.
“I have always loved tennis. My sister and I used to wake up and watch Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendal and we just loved it,” Johnson said.
It’s her love for the game that Johnson is looking to impart on the girls’ team this fall and the boys’ squad in the spring.
“I adore tennis and I wanted to make sure that the girls where with someone who loved the sport,” Johnson said. “It’s a great way to enhance what I do. I have the best of both worlds, I get to teach something I love: Spanish, and I get to teach something else I love: tennis.”
Johnson, whose team opened up its season on Monday with a tough 5-4 loss to Currituck, said she likes the makeup of her team.
“I have a small group of freshman and then I have a good group of upperclassmen that are back from last season,” Johnson said. “I have Kimberlyn Jones, Kiarra Smith, Page Ingalls, Ashlyn Ingalls, Laney Smith and Torrey Edwards. … They are all really hard workers and that’s half the battle right there. I’m so excited that they’re so motivated. We got rained out a few days last week for practices so I had to count on them to get in their own workout and they did. They’re such great self-motivated girls.”