State Stories

03

Pioneering Coach Doris Johnson Led Illinois High School Boys Basketball Team In 1946

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One of the common questions the IHSA receives each year is in regard to the history of female coaches who coach boys’ high school teams, with most questions centering around when it first occurred and the amount of success attained. While both can be difficult to pinpoint exactly, the first IHSA Boys Volleyball state champion, Richards High School in 1992, finished a perfect 41-0 with female coach Faralyn Jaquith leading the way. Boys’ volleyball is one sport that has seen a number of female coaches produce state final qualifiers, including Christine Giunta Mayer (pictured above), who coached Glenbard West to the 2015 IHSA Boys Volleyball State Championship.

The first female coach to ever coach a boys' high school team in Illinois is likely Doris Johnson, who coached the Cherry Valley High School boys' basketball team to a 14-2 regular-season mark during the 1945-46 season according to the Rockford Register Republic story below from February 18, 1946.

The scanned version is difficult to read, so we have typed the story below:

A young lady just eight months out of college and recently a bride is taking a basketball team into the district tournament at Monroe Center next week and she’s the coach.

That’s probably the last thing Mrs. Doris Johnson ever had on her mind as the majored in education at the University of Iowa, from which she was graduated last June.

Now she says she’ll make the best of it and hopes her Cherry Valley team which has won 12 of 16 games this season can get a chance in the regional meet at West Rockford high school.

I didn’t know I was getting a coaching job and a teaching position too, when I came here," Mrs. Johnson, the former Doris Cederstrom, said. "But I enjoy trying to help the boys. They work hard; they keep in condition and play to win.”

However, Mrs. Johnson, who was married a week ago to Earl
Johnson, recently returned war veteran didn’t have much choice in the matter of coaching--if Cherry Valley was to have a basketball team. A two year high school, with an enrollment of 30 girls and 25 boys, there wasn’t a man among the six faculty members. And the school wanted to be represented on the basketball court.

She virtually was drafted for the job.

“While basketball is my favorite sport, I admittedly lack proper qualifications to coach as far as experience is concerned,” she says.

Members of her squad dispute that statement. The players say she “knows her stuff,” quickly spots opponents weaknesses, and “keeps us from getting the jitters when the going is hot.” They give her all credit for their 12-4 record this season--many of their wins being against three and four-year school.

Now they’re looking forward to meeting Kingston in the first game of the district tournament.