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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Steve Johnson Sr Passes Away

I learned just this evening that Steve Johnson Sr., father of pro Steve Johnson has died, unexpectedly and much too young.

I still can't quite believe it, because I had several long talks with him while I was at Ojai, a tournament he loved and attended every year. As is always the case when I'd see him--at least twice, maybe three times a year--Steve and I would talk about all sorts of tennis and family related topics. We'd discuss his work as a tennis coach, which was now happening at a new location after the sale of the club where he previously worked.  He said he was optimistic that he would have some Ojai junior finalists in the coming years, and was happy to be on court and busy.

In addition to player development in general, we'd talk about paths to the pros, and while he acknowledged that each player and situation is different, he was adamant that staying at home and staying in school, as Stevie did, was a viable option that should not be dismissed.  This article on Steve Sr's move to Huntington Beach's Golden West Tennis Academy gives some insight on his thinking about that.

We also talked about his plans for this summer. He enjoyed traveling with Stevie when he could, and this year was planning to spend the grass court season with him in Europe, while his wife Michelle and daughter Alison were going earlier for the clay tournaments Steve was playing, including the French Open. Steve Sr loved Wimbledon and to see his son competing there was obviously a great source of pride to him.

And we spoke about Stevie's upcoming wedding, next April, which, unfathomably, he did not live to see.

I considered Steve a friend and also a model for tennis parents everywhere. He was optimistic, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, supportive, yet he was also unafraid to speak his mind. And although he was a tennis lifer, he possessed a keen sense of perspective and was always appreciative of what the sport had given him. When around him, you couldn't help but feel his happiness, both in the sport and in his life.

It's hard not to focus on the void his death will leave for so many people. But that void is so large because of the impact he had on so many while he lived. He'll be missed, for all he was and all he did. Rest in peace.


A fan of this great man said...

This was such shocking and sad news. The USC Trojan family and tennis world has lost a wonderful man who was always kind and gracious to all. He was a one of a kind tennis parent, we could all learn from Steve's playbook on how to coach and parent. Thank you Colette, for providing your readers a tribute to an amazing human being. I will miss trying to spot his white hair in the stands of Stevie's matches. Hugs to the entire Johnson family.

J. Turvy said...

So sorry to read this news...........thanks for sharing the information and your personal connection. You are a big part of the glue to the tennis community and are greatly appreciated.

student said...

He was my tennis coach and I don't know what to say. He was a great teacher and I hope he inspired others like he did me.

Eric Amend said...

So well written, Colette...

Carol Ann Rudolph said...

I have always enjoyed seeing Steve Johnson Sr at the tournaments as I cheered on his son at various events. I got to meet Steve Jr, his fine son, in person at Newport last summer and I was impressed with how polite he is, how comfortable he is in his own skin and how grateful he is for all the skills and talents his father brought out in him.

I am heartbroken for Steve Jr and all his family. It is hard to believe! I hope he will hold onto all the inspiration and good coaching his father gave him and go on to win a lot more tournaments to honor his Dad!

Carol Ann, Bethesda, Maryland.