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Dr. Paulette Walker Johnson Retires as Coach of Virginia State University Woo-Woos (5485 hits)

ETTRICK - Dr. Paulette Johnson is a rare breed of coach.

She has no true rival. And no true peer.

What she does have - without having to ask - is respect and a legion of former Virginia State University cheerleaders (Woo Woos) who remain loyal.

Johnson has earned every ounce of those positive feelings. Feelings not just from within the Virginia State community, but from the NCAA Division II ranks as well.

During her tenure, she helped guide the Woo Woos to the top of the CIAA - and the nation. Few schools have a cheerleading program that can challenge Virginia State.

Thanks to Johnson, who is stepping down after coaching the Woo Woos since 1974.

Expect an outpouring of love over the weekend as Virginia State celebrates the career of Johnson, including a meet-and-greet session Friday and a banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Colonial Heights on Saturday night.

"(Johnson) was a very firm, but loving coach," said new Woo Woos coach Shandra Claiborne, who cheered under Johnson in the 1990s. "She was like a mom away from home. ... It wasn't just about cheerleading. She stressed academics. She built up our self-esteem and taught (the cheerleading squad) a sense of community. It was so much more than just cheerleading."

Anyone who knows Johnson knows how true those words are.

Johnson's love for her hometown, Petersburg, brought her to Virginia State after receiving degrees as Morgan State and Springfield (Mass.) College.

Her lasting legacy at Virginia State can be summed up in a single word: family.

"It was always a family atmosphere," Claiborne said. "There is pressure to fill (Johnson's) shoes, but she's given me the skills to lead and guide the Woo Woos. If she believes in my, there is no way I can doubt myself.

"I know I can always go to her. She's the greatest mentor I could ever have asked for."

Johnson was kind enough to share her future plans with this reporter in an e-mail earlier this week.

"God is moving me to do other things," she wrote. "I don't even know what it is yet that He wants me to do. I am just trying to be obedient to His will. I will still conduct summer camps and still do all I can to positively affect young women of the world
Humility.

Success.

Love.

Loyalty.

Johnson is one of those rare coaches than inspires all the right emotions - from her cheerleaders, the fans and even the media covering Virginia State.

She can never be replaced. And she will never be forgotten.

-Neil Fuller can be reached at nfuller@progress-index.com
Posted By: A Dole
Monday, August 23rd 2010 at 1:39PM
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