Janna Maughon, 31, is the head girls lacrosse coach at Grayson. The Parkview graduate came to Grayson after a softball career at Kennesaw State.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Maughon about learning to coach a sport she never played, deciding to teach special education and the joys of owning her own house.
BB: How did you get to Grayson and back to Gwinnett County? Kennesaw State is not far, but it's far enough?
JM: I liked the area because my parents moved to Loganville after I graduated high school. They lived in the Stone Mountain area my whole life with my brothers growing up. But after I graduated they moved to Loganville to be closer to my brother who lives in Athens. I just liked the area. I liked the schools and I knew I wanted to teach. I knew Gwinnett County schools were the best. I just wanted to be close to my parents and teach in this county.
BB: A lot of former Gwinnett students come back to teach here. Knowing people must help.
JM: It does. The softball coach (at Grayson) I grew up with her, Jennifer Edwards. We played together growing up. A couple of the teachers at this school I know. There are a couple of teachers at Brookwood that I know, that I played with. There are teachers at some of the middle schools that I grew up playing with or grew up going to high school with. It's the craziest thing, everybody wants to come back to where their roots are.
BB: Plus the connections help.
JM: Yeah, it actually did. When I tried to get a job here, one of my friends who taught at another school was one of my references.
BB: How did you start coaching lacrosse? You obviously didn't play it because it didn't exist then.
JM: It wasn't a sport that was even in Gwinnett County at all when I was in high school. It has just know gotten to the point where it's a popular sport. I never played. I actually played basketball and I played softball growing up. And then I started just focusing on softball growing up. There are really a lot of similarities between basketball and lacrosse. It is kind of universal, playing defense, cuts, screens, it's all pretty much the same thing. It's a little different, a little different rules and more people on the field. But the concept is the same.
BB: How long did it take you to pick up? There must be technical things you needed to learn.
JM: Well, I am still, certainly, adjusting. I am not going to stand here and pretend that I know everything I need to know. I am a lot more comfortable now, this year, than I was last year. Last year I was dropped into it. It was a like a Spanish IV class to me and I was a beginner. Now, I understand it a lot more. Me experiencing all the games, that is what helps you more than anything.
BB: Did they ask you to do it? Did you volunteer? Was this a shot at a head coaching spot?
JM: Kind of both. I wanted to be a head coach just because I liked being in that role. I liked working with the kids. I was always into athletics, that was always important to me. It is something that helps the kids. I think that student athletes are really good kids because they balance school and athletics. So, I wanted to do that. Also, I was asked by our athletic director if I wanted to do it. It was kind of a partially asked and because I wanted to do it.
BB: You had to be nervous when you first started.
JM: I was extremely nervous. Regardless of whether I played this sport or not -- I played softball my whole life and I am nervous when we play softball -- I just get nervous and I think it's because I am anxious and excited because I want them to do well and it's important to me. But on top of that, that I never played and I am learning too, it doesn't make it any easier (laughs).
BB: Did you always want to be a coach?
JM: I kind of wanted to do physical therapy and I changed my mind. Science wasn't my strong suit or something that I really enjoyed. But I knew that I loved athletics and I wanted to do something with it, so I got into teaching. But originally, just for sports medicine and then I changed my major to communications. Broadcasting. And I have a degree in that, in media studies. I did an internship at Eagle 106 my senior year and it wasn't as glamorous as I had made it out to be. That was really disappointing. So for two years I just sort of piddled around and worked with my brother, he owns a security company in Loganville, so I worked with him. I knew that I wanted something different than working for my brother. I wanted something different.
BB: You chose special education. That is not a field that is easy, I would guess.
JM: Any time I tell somebody I am a special ed teacher, a lot of the responses that I receive are usually similar to, 'God bless you' or 'You are such a good person, I don't know how you do it.' But really, I love it. I love working with the kids. Just 'cause I can related to them because a lot of the ways of differentiated instruction that I have to use to relate to my kids I can do because it helped me in high school. Working with them is kind of like I feel like I am working with a kid like I was in high school I didn't like to sit and listen.
BB: Did you have an experience with special ed? What drew you to the field?
JM: I did. When I was in college we did a charity thing where we went to work with the Special Olympics and we got umpire some of the softball games in the Special Olympics. I loved it. They were fixated on the fun part of the game. They weren't involved in the drama or the pettiness that comes along with sports. With the special ed kids in the Special Olympics that year, it was all about them going out and having fun and I loved it.
BB: No playing time issues?JM: They didn't care. They were just happy to be there. They were happy to be there and participate in it.
BB: That sounds better.
JM: Yeah. Let's take a step back and start thinking about why we actually started playing.
BB: How has returning to Gwinnett as a coach changed or enhanced your perspective on high school sports in this area?
JM: I feel like in Gwinnett County, if you want to be a competitive team, regardless of the sport you are going to be a cut above everyone. Every one measures themselves with Gwinnett County schools. Regardless of whether they say they do or they don't, they do. Gwinnett County schools are dominant in all areas and all sports. I like that. I like that challenge. The fact that this is only a third-year program and we are still trying to establish ourselves and make a name for ourselves and I like that. We are staring from the bottom and working our way up.
BB: Do you live here in Loganville or Grayson, I guess?
JM: I just bought a house in Monroe last November, not this one, but the one before.
JM: Thank you, I am very excited. I don't do much than just sit in it. I don't have a whole lot of extra time or money.
BB: You don't spend all your time decorating?
JM: I have already done that. I've had lots of time. My mother, me being the only daughter, she wanted to come over and help with the decorating. So she did. So the house is pretty well done.
BB: And now you can just enjoy it.
JM: I sit in it a lot. I wanted it so bad. ... The money I am actually putting in is going to something that is mine. I kick myself for getting apartments and renting houses. It was just wasting money.