SOAR Volleyball – Empowering Women in Coaching

Q+A with Tonya Johnson, LSU Head Volleyball Coach and SOAR Founder

SOAR is a non-profit organization that gives women coaches a place to elevate and discuss gender issues. Founded by LSU Head Volleyball Coach Tonya Johnson, SOAR creates an environment with an intimate community of support for female coaches to discuss the challenges that are unique to women in the profession.

SI: Tell us how and why you created SOAR.

TJ: When I was the HC at Georgia Tech I had a couple of reliable people I could bounce things off of but I didn’t really trust anyone else. What I realized was that it would have been so awesome to have a community of support to call on during my 5 years there. So I came up with this idea and bounced the idea off of Fran Flory and Salima Rockwell. They were both like this is great and you should definitely do this. So here we are and this is what I came up with. If you recognize and/or have experienced the challenges that are unique to women in coaching, SOAR allows you to explore these issues in a safe environment. SOAR is an intimate community of support that provides a platform to openly discuss challenges. It is through this dialogue that as a group, we learn, build lifelong relationships, and promote ways to be more effective, motivated coaches and ultimately, better people.

SI: What has been the most rewarding part of starting SOAR? How has it impacted you personally and in coaching?

TJ: The most rewarding part of starting SOAR has been the friendships and support that everyone has been able to make. SOAR gave me the confidence that I needed to go after and get my dream job here at LSU.

SI: Explain the SOAR Convention. What should coaches be expected to learn and experience?

TJ: SOAR seeks to inspire, empower and connect female coaches, giving them a safe platform to share their knowledge and ideas. SOAR stands for – · Support: Developing a community of trust · Openness: Encouraging honest, open dialogue · Advocacy: Promoting dialogue around issues unique to women in coaching · Renewal: Rekindling excitement for coaching and life!

2022 SOAR Convention

SI: How has SOAR evolved since the first conference?

TJ: We have doubled our numbers of coaches in attendance and provided a space for female coaches to interact and grow. AND we have our very first sponsor in Sports Imports.

SI: Why is it important to you to empower and educate women in the sports industry?

TJ: It’s important because I want women to stay in coaching. By having a networking system in place provides support for those who may be struggling or looking to get out.

SI: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the sports industry?

TJ: I would say the biggest challenge has been just having the confidence to believe in myself and KNOW that I am capable of being a great Coach.

SI: What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a coach?

TJ: To be myself!! I don’t have to be anybody else but Tonya!

The 2023 SOAR Symposium takes place in Tuscon, Arizona, on January 20 + 21. To learn more or to register, visit SOAR on Instagram at @soarvolleyball or email Tonya Johnson at