Johnson claims the award after 25 years of making it to the playoffs, and coaching his team to the gold medal in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Greg Mason, UOttawa Sports Services.
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Steve Johnson selected as male coach of the year

Adding to the list of accolades for the Gee-Gees women’s soccer team, the Ottawa Sports Awards committee has selected head coach Steve Johnson for male coach of the year.

Every year the Ottawa Sports Awards recognizes achievements from athletes, coaches, and teams from the nation’s capital. Last year the awards recognized Gees’ head women’s rugby coach Jen Boyd for her 2017 national championship win.

Johnson was selected following a tremendous season from the U of O women’s soccer team, finishing with their first gold medal at the national tournament since 1996.

“I’m happy for the recognition, and obviously I think it is a team recognition. You’re not going to get male coach of the year if your team isn’t successful, right?” Johnson said. “So I think we had a really great season, and you know, my selection is just the result of the fantastic performance we had all year.”

The Gees, who hadn’t made it to the national tournament in four years, had a stellar 2018 season all around, finishing 20-1-1 in regular season play.

The only team to really give the Gees trouble were the Nipissing Lakers, whom they drew against in their first matchup, and suffered their only loss to.

“Our performances against Nipissing were good in both games,” Johnson said. “We played a style that sometimes left us exposed at the back. We were very much a possession-based team —we tried to play a high tempo with the ball, but we made mistakes in both of those games, and Nipissing was able to punish us for them. So we took them as opportunities to learn about things we wanted to avoid, things we wanted to be better at. Overall I think it did help us in our season.”

From there on, the Garnet and Grey would not lose a match, breezing their way to a provincial championship, and then the national tournament⸺hosted at the U of O’s Gee-Gees Field.

“There was a worry that we would go to nationals and embarrass ourselves, because you’re a host, and we did not want that,” Johnson said. “So part of our target was having a good regular season, and trying to come in as the OUA champions.”

In the national tournament, the U of O beat Calgary 2-1 in the quarter-finals, then rolled over McMaster 4-1 in the semifinals, finally squaring off against Trinity Western in the gold medal match. There they prevailed 2-1, with Miranda Smith getting the game-winner for her team.

Johnson, who’s now been coaching the Gees for 25 years, said part of what made this group so special was their bond on and of the pitch.

“This was a group I think really liked each other. We had year-end meetings and one of the topics that came up fairly often was just how players enjoyed the season, so regardless of the fact we won nationals or that we had so much success on the field, they felt like there was success as a team off the field,” Johnson said.

“They wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without winning the national title, because that’s such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There’s great players and teams who never get a chance to win the national championship. It made that part of the season really special. Regardless of the results, this group enjoyed training. This group enjoyed going on the road together. This group enjoyed getting together to study. They were just very, very together.”

The awards will be handed out Jan. 30 at Algonquin College at the Ottawa Sports Award Dinner, an event celebrating its 66th anniversary on that day. Johnson will join female coach of the year Cassandra Smith of the Akademy Snowboard Programs, alongside other award winners.