Janine Tucker retired as head coach of the Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse program following the 2022 season, which marked her 29th campaign leading the Blue Jays. Tucker retired with a career mark of 313-180 overall and 245-164 in Division I. Tucker’s teams earned 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level and four trips at the Division III level.
Former Hopkins players Erin Wellner Hellmold (1999-2002), Mary Ann McGuire (1994-1997) and Lauren Skellchock (2005-2008) spoke to PressBox’s Luke Jackson about what made Tucker so successful as the head coach at Hopkins. Skellchock is now the head coach of the Mount St. Mary’s women’s lacrosse team, while Wellner Hellmold was an assistant at Georgetown for eight years.
PressBox: What makes Tucker so special? Why was she so successful at Hopkins?
Erin Wellner Hellmold: She cares so much about every single person that comes through the door, and she’s authentic, honest and real. She just cares so much — the motherly instincts, the mentoring of her players throughout four years and after shows her true colors and the beauty side of her. It’s not just about lacrosse on the field. It is [developing] girls into women and to be able to be successful. When people graduated, those women [are] now becoming super successful in their careers, personal lives and just making a great impact on the community that they’re in, just like she has had on the lacrosse community that she’s been a part of for so long.
Lauren Skellchock: A lot of people when they meet her, I think they think, “Is she real?” Because her energy, her enthusiasm, her positivity is contagious. I think whenever she’s in the room, you can just feel her presence. I certainly felt that right away as a recruit for her, as a player for her. She coaches, she lives, she does everything with so much energy, so much passion. I really truly believe that’s what made her successful — not only being a tireless worker … and devoting all of her attention and life to Hopkins lacrosse, but more so just the person she is. It makes you want to play for her. It makes you want to succeed for her. Certainly that’s how I felt as a player.
PressBox: How did Tucker stand the test of time throughout her career?
Erin Wellner Hellmold: You have to keep up with the times and you have to be super dedicated in the evolution of the sport. I played in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and the game now is … different. The athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, so she has been able to study the game. She puts time into watching what other coaches do. I think that’s super helpful. She’s not stuck in her own little world. She knows that you need to collaborate and speak to and find out what other people do and what makes them successful. She’s also had and surrounded herself with phenomenal assistant coaches throughout the years that have stuck with her for a good chunk of time. It’s not just a revolving door.
Mary Ann McGuire: She’s an innovator. I think she’s constantly reinventing herself. Janine, when I was a freshman, was smart enough to realize that maybe it would be beneficial to bring a men’s lacrosse coach who had never coached women before over to [coach] for the women. That’s Ricky Fried, the head coach of Georgetown now. [He] was our offensive coordinator. I don’t have any point of reference beyond what they set up for us in college, but from the way it was described, women’s lacrosse back in the day before restraining lines was a lot of 11-on-11 — like everyone on one end of the field and everybody on the other end of the field. Ricky and Janine, her being smart enough to bring him into our coaching staff, said, “We’re not going to do that. Why do we want to clutter the arc? Let’s only bring down the players that we want to be in there and not have other people bring their defense players down, and run plays that will allow us to win.”
PressBox: How did you develop such a special relationship with Tucker?
Erin Wellner Hellmold: I admired her from the moment I met her. She was a really huge mentor. Not only was she a coach … I looked up to her as a role model. A lot of things she preached about were how I wanted to go about my life. A big part of it is I did become a coach because of her and just watching the influence she’s had on so many young women and just to be able to do the same thing. We had a player-coach relationship throughout college, and I really used it as a college coach for a lot of guidance and direction and we continue to evolve our relationship into a really great friendship.
Mary Ann McGuire: I never picked up a lacrosse stick before coming to Hopkins. I was a field hockey player, and at that time Janine coached both sports. When she asked me what I was doing in the spring, I let her know that I was going to run track because that’s what I did in high school and why not? She chuckled and said, “I don’t think so,” and put the time in to turn me into a lacrosse player. I went in a field hockey player, I most certainly graduated a lacrosse player despite playing both sports all four years.
PressBox: Is there a story involving you and Tucker that resonates to this day?
Mary Ann McGuire: She always calls us her bunnies, her little players. I was a freshman at one point. I was relatively fast and I think she recognized speed was my asset, so that’s what she thought she could translate into being a lacrosse player. But [I was] standing on the sideline and Janine’s pacing. “I need one of my bunnies. Where’s my little Speedy?” She turned around and looked at me, made eye contact and in my head I’m like, “I’m going in! This is awesome.” She said, “My little Speedy, come on over here kiddo! Could you run as fast as you possibly can into my office and go get me my clipboard?” I think it was a humbling moment … that we always laugh [about] with her.
Lauren Skellchock: I remember we went into a game and she was questioning some of the players on the scouting report. I was a senior captain at the time. I remember she looked to the captains after she gave the scouting report for our input after a night of digesting everything and making sure we did our homework on it, if you will. Janine never ripped us so hard. I remember that game. We played the game after and I was like, “We better make this up to her,” because we disappointed her, and we knew it, I guess in our approach to the game.
PressBox: How has Tucker helped you in life outside of sports?
Mary Ann McGuire: I’d like to think I’m special and unique and have this great relationship with her, but I think she has that very special and unique relationship with a whole host of alums who feel that she gives them the one-on-one attention and you’re giving what you’re getting in both directions, for sure. She’s never left, in a sense. Whether she knows the field or practice that I’m in as a lawyer or other fellow alums, I think she’s there to give the baseline guidance irrespective of what you do as an adult or grad, including if you’re a mom and you’re not working outside the home but working to keep your family together.
Lauren Skellchock: Just remembering the big picture of when I am in the office with a player and you have a thousand things on your to-do list, but that one player that comes into your office and needs you for 15 [minutes], for an hour, whatever it may be, that you give them your undivided attention. I felt like Coach Tucker, even now for me, if I call her for something, whether it’s lacrosse or life or career-related, she gives me her undivided attention. I think that’s just the person that she is, making sure that she’s touching you in a way that’s really personal, making sure that you’re getting your needs met, because she does truly care.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics