There is a saying that “Everything is bigger in Texas”. At 6’2”, John Mann certainly would fit that description. John grew up in Webster Texas, just outside of Houston. He attended Clear Creek High School and spent one year at the University of San Antonio where he played basketball. If there was one thing that John learned at the University of San Antonio, it was that he actually was not that tall; as many of his team mates pushed the bar at 6’11”
John’s parents later migrated north to Calgary and John ended up attending the University of Alberta. Hearing from an old girlfriend, Sorry Ruby, John learned of a teaching position at Herdman Collegiate in Corner Brook. Having hitchhiked across Canada, Newfoundland was the only province that had never visited. When offered the job, John figured he would give it a try and move to Newfoundland for five years. That was in 1967.
John’s volleyball coaching career spanned 42 years from 1967-2009. Although his sport background was basketball, John was offered a coaching position for the girls volleyball team at Herdman Collegiate; just one of the teams that never had a coach.
When we look at builders of a sport for our Hall of Fame, not only do we look for individuals that have years of service, we look for evidence that the sport is still thriving in that area after many years. For those here tonight, we know firsthand how much time Johnny Mann had spent on the court, and we all know that volleyball is alive and well because of builders like John.
John coached at Herdman Collegiate from 1967-1969. In 1970, he took his teaching to Curling Junior High where he taught and coached until 1980. John started volleyball at Curling Junior High as an extracurricular activity for grades 7-9. It may have taken a couple of years, but eventually these teams became good enough to compete against other junior high schools and even high schools. In 1976, his Junior High girls team won the 2A Girls High School Championships in LaScie
In 1977, John and his new wife Ruby, left Corner Brook and moved to Pasadena. John continued to coach at Curling Junior High where he was famous for his early morning practices. His former players say that no matter what weather he had to deal with, John was there; and so were the girls.
In 1981, John started teaching at Pasadena Academy and volleyball came along for the ride until he retired in 1997. Volleyball was also an extracurricular activity in Pasadena at the time and he started to coach teams to compete in the NL High School Sports Federation Tournaments. In 1984, Pasadena Academy won their first High School Championship with a provincial 2A Girls Championship. John’s high school teams went on to win three more provincial championships before he retired. The girls team won back to back 3A titles in 1992 and 1993. He most special win at Pasadena came in 1997 when the team took the 3A Championships in their home gym.
From 2002 – 2009, John organized a volleyball program for girls 7-9 in Pasadena Academy. In 2002, he coached the grade 7 girl’s team, in 2003 he coached the grade 7 and 8 teams. And you guessed it, in 2004; he coached the grade 7, 8 and 9 teams at Pasadena Academy. In 2005, John started recruiting former player and even parents as coaches for the program. Taking volleyball development a little further, John started hosting coaching and referee clinics at his school. A lot of these same players are now mentors for the volleyball community in Pasadena today.
John’s main philosophy for his program was to teach as many girls as possible to play volleyball at a competitive level. This meant that he would not cut any girl who came out to practice regularly. Every girl would play regardless of their ability. I was preparing them to compete for a position on a high school team. As a result, in 2002 & 2003 I would show up at tournaments with over 20 girls on a team. For anyone who can remember that AGM in Gander, The NLVA changed their rules to accommodate John and now it states that a team can carry up to 19 players on a team.
John listed four goals as a coach
-to engage young people no matter their level of ability
-to raise up future coaches from amongst present players
-to foster a love of sport
-to understand the complex dynamics of what makes a team
When asked if he had any mentors in his day. John replied, “Not really, I just learned from making some pretty huge mistakes and figuring where I went wrong and tried to fix them”. He does admit to watching good teams and good coaches at all events. Always eager to learn, John attended local coach’s clinic, some even twice as he did with his level two technical. That is dedication to being a better coach.
John now spends time hopping from coast to coast between Newfoundland and British Columbia, visiting his daughter Katharine and son Andrew.