Jamie Smeigh received a rousing vote of confidence before applying to become the next Johnsburg head softball coach.
“I kind of knew I wanted to,” said Smeigh, an assistant the past three years. “A lot of the girls and parents were kind of trying to get me to do it, pushing me to go for it. With the kids that are here, it was a no-brainer. I like working with them, and they like working with me. It’s a great group.”
Smeigh applied and was announced as the softball coach in July. He replaces Ted Juske, who became Johnsburg’s athletic director after Tom Ross left for the same position at Grant.
Smeigh, who describes his coaching style as “laid back,” said he learned a lot from Juske over the past three years at Johnsburg.
“He taught me how to play the game within the game,” Smeigh said. “He taught me situational stuff, when to do what and what to do during game situations ... and to kind of let the girls make mistakes on their own, how to help them fix the mistakes and move on.”
Smeigh, a native of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, previously coached with Juske at Pro Player Academy in McHenry.
He played collegiate baseball at NAIA Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa. Upon graduation, he was an assistant coach in softball and volleyball for a year before moving to Illinois.
In high school, Smeigh tried it all and competed in baseball, volleyball, wrestling and kayaking.
“It wasn’t always a passion of mine,” Smeigh said of coaching. “I really didn’t get into coaching until I was in college. I started coaching summer baseball teams for fifth and sixth grades, and that’s when I knew I wanted to work with kids and coach.”
Johnsburg finished 10-19 in the spring, going 4-8 in the inaugural season of the Kishwaukee River Conference. Over the past three years, the Skyhawks have gone 36-52 – including 15-15 in 2015.
Johnsburg lost four seniors to graduation but have a solid group of young players returning. Adriana Montewska and Tess Wright were Northwest Herald All-Area picks as sophomores.
“I think we had six sophomores that started for us last year,” Smeigh said. “There are a couple of more freshmen coming in that could help us out in a year or two. I think the future looks bright.”
Last year’s finish – a 12-2 loss to Ridgewood in the Class 3A regional semifinals – wasn’t what Smeigh or the Skyhawks were hoping for after making a regional final in the previous year, but he does see good things ahead.
Johnsburg last won a regional championship in 2008.
“It wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but, last year, from start to finish, we could see improvement from the girls,” Smeigh said. “Short term, the real goal is to continue what Ted and I have been doing, just trying to see improvement and progression.
“Long term, like every other coach, maybe to win a state championship, make it down to state.”
Smeigh is entering his sixth year as a paraprofessional at Stanton Middle School in Fox Lake. He’s also a sophomore volleyball coach at Wauconda High School.