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Karner blazes her own coaching path

by | Mar 7, 2023 | Featured: Sports, Sports

Jessie Karner

Jessie Karner coaches boys in football and wrestling, as well as girls in softball. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Jessie Karner has established herself as a multisport coach in Hopkinton, and much of her success has been in sports that are traditionally male-dominated. Karner is coaching football and wrestling at the middle school level and recently began coaching softball as well.

An English teacher at Hopkinton High School, Karner managed the high school wrestling team when she was a student at HHS and began coaching when she started teaching.

“It’s been a really cool experience,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning about sports. I have been a humongous football fan, but I had a huge learning curve and I still have a huge learning curve.”

Coaching wrestling has come a bit more naturally to Karner, since she has been around the sport for so many years. Karner said she has watched as much wrestling as anyone in the community, with the possible exception of Tim Nelson and Corey Mills, the high school coaches who she said are big influences on her coaching career.

“I feel like I knew a lot about what to do,” she said. “I knew the moves and what they looked like, but I had to learn how to slow the moves down so I could teach them. It’s been a really fun challenge and a really rewarding experience.”

Karner said her favorite part of coaching is making connections with her athletes, especially coaching at the middle school level. She focuses on helping them build the skills to be strong athletes, but also qualities such as leadership, self-advocacy and confidence.

While wrestling and football have been great learning experiences, Karner said softball comes more naturally because she played the sport in high school.

“I can see a swing from 100 feet away and see something I would tweak,” she said. “I love the sport so much, and I still play and enjoy it. It’s very natural for me to coach.”

But coaching in roles that are traditionally male dominated is something that Karner said is a “really important trend,” citing the increase in female coaches at the professional level in sports like baseball, football and men’s basketball.

“It’s really important to have female coaches,” Karner said, adding that having varying viewpoints can only benefit athletes. She referenced Hopkinton coach Steve Simoes, who switched from baseball to softball and coached Karner when she was in school.

“I thought it was cool that he came across from baseball and offered a different perspective,” she said. “As we see women taking positions in men’s sports, I think it only helps us to be better and work together to help athletes thrive.”

Simoes, also a teacher at HHS, remembers Karner as a leader for the softball team.

“She was definitely an easy person to coach,” Simoes said. “I’m pretty certain I gave her the Coaches Award, which I give to the player who most represents the values of the program. So that’s an indication of the role she took on. I kind of refer to the Coaches Award winner as a player I consider to be ‘coach-free,’ because I think they would have the same attitude and work ethic and adherence to the responsibilities whether or not the coaches were present. And Jessie was always that way.”

Karner said her coaching passion always will be tied to helping her athletes succeed and find their own passion on the field or on the mat.

“I just want to help students find their way,” she said. “I want to look back and have them say that I was a positive influence in their lives.”

1 Comment

  1. Kristin Dionne

    Jessie is a definitely asset to Hopkinton sports. The connection she has with the kids is unmatched. Go get ‘em, Jessie!