The athletic department at Johns Creek has decided to launch a new online story series called “Getting to Know Gladiator………..” In doing this, it is our hope to introduce the coaches, athletes, teachers, and support staff at Johns Creek High School that help make Gladiator Athletics one of the best programs in the state of Georgia. Our goal is to run this as a weekly story and serve as a human-interest piece so the public can see and meet the many faces that make up Gladiator Nation. We hope that you enjoy this new series and meeting those who make Gladiator Nation the best every day.
Getting to Know Gladiator Head Coach Mary Byrne
Welcome to the second edition of Getting to Know. Our story will focus on head coach Mary Byrne. Ms. Byrne currently serves as the head varsity girls’ soccer coach, director of football operations, strength coach and PE Department Chair at Johns Creek. Coach Byrne is an outstanding educator and we appreciate her taking the time so sit down with us so that you can get to now her as a teacher, coach, and person that is a critical part to our athletic department at Johns Creek. Enjoy the interview and the pictures.
AD – Coach, can you tell us a little about yourself. Where you are from? Where did you go to high school? Did you play athletics in college?
MB – I graduated from Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett, and then played 4 years of college soccer at Georgia College in Milledgeville. After I graduated, I was the Graduate Assistant for athletics for 1 year, the Grad Assistant for Soccer for 1 year, and then I was the Assistant Coach for the Women’s Soccer Team for another year. My parents are retired and living in Orlando, Florida near my older brother Sean and my sister-in-law Jodi with my niece and nephew Kiersten and Jameson. My parents have always been and remain my biggest fans, until retirement my dad barely ever missed a game, even when I was coaching! My oldest brother, Jim, lives is Atlanta very close to me. My brothers, Sister-in-law, and I are all very close and we hang out as much as we possibly can together. When I am not coaching, I like to spend time with my friends and family, do anything outdoors, cook, and visit Disney World. One thing most people do not know about me until they really get to know me is that I am a good cook and I am artistic. I also love to run the Disney 10K and Half Marathons!
AD – While you were a high school athlete; did you play multiple sports? What was your focus or drive in high school to make it to the next level?
MB – I was a 4-year varsity soccer player and ran cross country for 3 years and I also swam competitively in summer leagues. In high school I was driven to play at the next level because I love the game of soccer and I wanted to make my parents proud.
AD – What was the biggest difference between being an athlete in high school vs college? We understand that you had to overcome a serious injury during your college career. What was that like and how did you overcome that obstacle to return to the field? How did that experience prepare you for your future career?
MB – The biggest difference between high school and college is the commitment level. College athletics is a job, you must balance the practices, games, travel, lifts, and study halls all while going to classes and maintaining eligibility.
Yes, I did have a major injury my Sophomore year and missed the rest of that year. I had to fight through months and months of rehab and 4 surgeries to make it back on the field my junior year. It was one of the most difficult times in my life, but I worked hard each and every day. I am not going to lie, there were some hard, dark days, but I was fighting to get back on the field. That experience taught me to never give up and that everything happens for a reason.
AD – You have been at Johns Creek since 2016-17 school year. Where were you at before then and what did you do to prepare for your current role as the head girls soccer coach?
MB – Prior to Johns Creek I was a first-grade teacher at Freemans Mills Elementary school and Coaching at Collins Hill High School. I got into coaching after I graduated college and I was given the opportunity to be the graduate assistant coach at Georgia College for one year and then I was hired back as the assistant coach for an additional year. Those roles helped model me to start my own program at Johns Creek.
AD – Since joining the Gladiators in 2016-17; you have done more than just coach soccer. What new roles have you added to your plate and why?
MB – I have been the boy’s lacrosse strength and conditioning coach since my first year. I work with the boys 3 days a week for lifting and conditioning and I love being with teams in the weight room. I absolutely love working with the lacrosse boys because they work hard, and they always make me laugh. I served as the JV volleyball coach for one season to help when they did not have a coach. I am also currently the Director of Football Operations and have been for the past 2 years. Becoming a part of the program and staff has been a huge honor. I love these boys and I love working with them and watching them succeed. It is a rare thing to see a female on a football coaching staff, but these guys have accepted me as a coach, and it has been a great experience. I also serve as the PE Department Chair.
AD – You are very much a fitness freak and love working out. How does this passion of yours spill over into your coaching and teaching roles? Given the situation that we are in with the Covid-19 pandemic, how or what can we do at home to stay in shape and healthy while practicing social distancing?
MB – Yes, I truly enjoy working out and staying fit. I think that helps me run my off season and in season conditioning for all of my teams. It gives me the extra passion to push my athletes that much harder. Loving working out and training makes my job so fun and some days it does not even seem like work. I love to see athletes make improvements and better themselves, so it makes the work worth it. During this time, I have been getting outside and getting my 3 miles in, and then using all of the available workout programs to do at-home workouts. It is crucial right now to stay active not only for our physical health, but for our mental health.
AD – With all the roles that you serve at Johns Creek; you often are on campus very early and leave very late. What is the best part of your day? What is the most challenging part of your day? How do you use the experiences from one day to the next better?
MB – Yes, some days are extremely long, but working with my soccer girls and all the amazing athletes I work with at school make “work” fun and unpredictable. Balancing everything can be challenging but knowing the end goal makes all the stress worth it. Every day, situation, and experience are a chance to learning and grow and that goes for the good and the difficult, so if I am learning and growing everything is serving its purpose.
AD – You are such a positive role model for all athletes, but especially female athletes. You have been nominated for Female Georgia Positive Athlete Coach of the year before. What does it mean to you to be such a strong positive role model for all athletes? Who were or are your biggest influences in your life that have made you who you are today?
MB – That is such an honor that you say those kind words. My main goal each day is for my girls and all athletes to know that I am always there for them and that I truly care for them. I am also going to push them because I believe in each one of them and I want them all to reach their potential. My mom and dad and my older brother are the biggest influences in my life, but also my mentor from Georgia College, Jimmy Wilson.
AD – Looking back on your career thus far, if there is one thing you could have told your younger self to do or not do that you know now?
MB – Do not sweat the small stuff, life happens ride the ride and enjoy it! Pick and choose your battles and know that there will be tough days, but the good totally outweighs the bad.
AD – This is the last question but is broken up into an overtime quick shoot situation. We ask you several short questions and you give us the first thing that comes to your mind:
MB – Favorite Color-teal blue/sea-foam
AD – Favorite professional sports team?
MB – Atlanta United
AD – Favorite sport outside of soccer?
MB – Baseball and Football
AD – If you were not a teacher and coach; what else would you do professionally?
MB – Maybe a flight attendant or a business owner of some sort.
AD – If you spend the day with anyone in the history of the world: who would it be with and why?
MB – Mia Hamm or JFK, but I would also love to spend another day with my grandparents since I was so young when they passed.
Coach Byrne has been a wonderful addition to our school and community. She has taken things to the next level and has been heavily involved with different Gladiator Teams. We would also like to congratulate Coach Byrne on her recent wedding engagement!
We hope that you have enjoyed this second installment of Getting to Know Gladiator. As you can tell, Coach Byrne is not just a coach of sports but also family person who cares about her students as if they were one of her own children. Thank you Coach Byrne for taking the time so that Gladiator Nation can get to know you as a person. Check back in the coming weeks for more stories on your favorite Gladiators. You never know; you might be the focus of the next story! Until next time; stay classy Gladiator Nation and we will see you soon.