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Q&A with new Eagle softball coach Maggie Johnson
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    Maggie Johnson, Georgia Southern’s new softball coach, spent the weekend in Tennessee searching for future Eagles. In the next few days she’ll swing by campus to set up her office and begin getting situated. Within a week, she hopes to be in a moving truck headed for Statesboro.
    Johnson, who’ll turn 29 this week, becomes the fourth head coach in the program’s fast-pitch history. She’s looking to continue the Eagles’ recent success under former coach Natalie Poole, the all-time wins leader. Johnson comes to Georgia Southern via Radford University, where she spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach.
    In her first week on the job, she took time to talk with the Statesboro Herald:
    Q: Congrats on your first head coaching job. Is becoming a head coach something you’ve always aimed to do?
    A: Ever since I decided to coach I’ve known that I want to be a head coach. I made the decision to coach while I was in grad school. I played softball pretty much my whole life, and my college experience taught me a lot about coaching, good and bad. When I was in grad school I realized I didn’t want to be away from the sport. That’s what led me to coach in the first place.
    Q: How did the Georgia Southern job come onto your radar?
    A: I’m familiar with the program because (Radford) came down to one of Georgia Southern’s tournaments last year. I know what the school and program are like. It’s a great program, and we played a really close game so I knew they were a very solid team.
    When the (GSU) job came open, my boss actually emailed me and said, ‘I know you are looking at jobs. Here’s one that’s open. I think it’d be a good one.’ So I went ahead and applied for it. It all happened pretty quickly after that.
    Q: You haven’t spent much time here yet, but what are your impressions of Georgia Southern so far?
    A: Coming down here and starting to really look at each player and put it all together — there’s such a solid foundation. But it’s hard to tell right now because we haven’t put the players on the field, so I don’t honestly know what everybody can do yet. It seems as though we are pretty set with positions. Coach Poole did a great job, and we are going to have a pretty solid base to start from. There will be a little bit of an adjustment, but hopefully it won’t take us long to get on the same page and get things going.
    Q: You are busy recruiting now, but what are some of your other top priorities over the next few weeks?
    A: Of course scheduling is important. My biggest priority right now is the team that’s in place because they are the ones who are going to do the work for the season. The ones who are here now and the freshman coming in are what I have to work with, and they are going to be the ones to go through it all with me. So just making sure they all ok, eligible and doing what they need to in school. I’ve called them all. We had dinner with a bunch of them that were in town. I’m trying to keep in touch with them and make sure that they’re comfortable. It’s been a big adjustment for them.
    Q: There’s currently some work being done at the softball field. What’s going on over there?
    A: I don’t know all the details, but they are building locker rooms out there for the girls. They’ll be an equipment room, an office, I think laundry facilities, umpire changing rooms. They are doing a lot of things to upgrade the facility. They’re working on drainage and making the area a higher caliber.
    I think that’s going to help a whole lot with recruiting. The campus is beautiful, and the athletic programs are competitive. Just having some facilities upgrades is really going to help.
    Q: What about you as a coach? What are you like, and is there anyone you model yourself after?
    A: I don’t know if there’s anyone I model myself after. I’ve learned a lot from the people in my life, not just people I worked for but my parents, friends and other coaches in different sports.
    I think my coaching style is more my personality rather than me trying to fit into a certain type of mold as a coach. Off the field, my personality is very laidback. I don’t get angry easily. I usually handle stress pretty well. However, when we step on the field I expect a lot. I think this program right now has all the potential in the world, so we are going to hit the ground pretty hard. It’s going to be intense, but at the same time I think the girls that are already there can handle it. We’re going to push them and see what we can accomplish.
    Q: You had a very successful college career at UNC Wilmington. Where did you grow up?
    A: I was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and lived there for a short period of time. Then we moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., where my brother was born. Then we moved to New Jersey for about seven years. When I was nine we moved to Raleigh, N.C., and that’s pretty much where I grew up. That’s home to me now, it’s where my parents live. My dad worked for federal law enforcement, so he ended up transferring a lot when we were younger.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.