CMU Sports Information
Margo Jonker has faithfully worn the Maroon and Gold of Central
Michigan University for the past 21 years. This summer, however, CMU's
softball coach will trade those colors in for a new set ... the Red,
White and Blue.
Jonker is an assistant coach for USA Softball's Olympic team that will
compete in Syndey, Australia, September 15 to October 1. Aside from
taking CMU to a national championship title herself, Jonker cites this
as one of the top accomplishments she could ever have in the game of
"Going to the Olympics as a player or a coach is the highlight of any
career," she said. "Representing your country is as good as it gets in
the world of athletics.
"My initial reaction was one of being honored to be able to be a part
of the Olympic experience representing this great country in the game I
totally enjoy and have spent my life with. I was a little awestruck
that I was given this opportunity and extremely thankful to all that
made it possible.
"There are so many people who have contributed to my coaching career.
It goes back to my father who first took me to games and played catch
with me, to my friends who have been there for me, to my players who
have made CMU the success we are, to my assistants and colleagues who
have been there for me and to all the support of the people around CMU
softball who have helped out in so many ways."
Jonker applied for the position after serving as a coach in the USA
Softball program for several years. She was also an assistant at the
World Championships in 1998 and the Superball Tournament in 1997. Her
responsibilities for this year's Olympic team include coaching first
base, working with the outfielders and monitoring the strength and
While coaching some of the world's top players such as Lisa Fernandez,
Dot Richardson, Sheila Douty and Michele Smith is a change of pace for
Jonker, she says there's a lot of similarities to her job at CMU.
"When it came to working with the players, I thought it would be
different than working with CMU players because the Olympic players were
so accomplished and skilled," Jonker said. "But even with the
Olympians' confidence, they have many of the same needs as our players.
They do little things wrong and they need to be reminded to use proper
technique. They, too, need to know coaches are there for them and they
need positive reinforcement just like any other athlete."
Finding the right cure for the little problems took a little research
by Jonker. She didn't need to dig into coaching books to find answers,
though, she just needed to get to know her players better.
"I found that it was important that I get to know each player on the
Olympic team," she said. "The players each have different styles that
they have been successful with and knowing each person's style allows me
to know what each person needs, rather than what a textbook fix would be
for their problems."
Jonker says she won't have a problem with the transition from being a
head coach to an assistant. In fact, she says, it has its advantages.
"Being an assistant I won't have the pressure of being the head coach so
that should allow me to enjoy the experience a little more," she said
with a smile.
And the experience Jonker looks forward to most is the actual
competition in Sydney.
"I'm looking forward to the games themselves," she said. "I can't wait
to actually get into the Olympic arena and that competitive atmosphere.
The possibility of being in the gold medal game and winning the gold is
something I look forward to."
The Americans are the favorites to repeat with the gold, but USA will
face tough competition from Australia and Japan. Being a part of one of
the best softball teams ever assembled does bring some notoriety to
"It's amazing to see how many kids and adults come up to you and want
your autograph and are willing to stand in line for long periods of time
just to get your signature," she said. "The fans usually try to get
their favorites but they also want all the players and coaches.
Sometimes we actually have to try to avoid the crowds at games and
appearances and part of my job is to move the team along in those
situations. Sometimes the fans don't understand, though, and feelings
Jonker's Olympic experience will also bring some national attention to
Central Michigan University, the Chippewa Athletics Department and the
Mid-American Conference. Jonker and Team USA are currently touring the
country until the games as part of its "Central Park to Sydney 2000"
"Everywhere we go, I will be announced as Margo Jonker from Central
Michigan University," she said. "Many of the games during the tour and
the Olympics will be televised so that should give CMU some more
exposure. CMU isn't mentioned much on television on a national level
outside of when Dan Majerle is mentioned. I see the coverage of the
games benefiting the university as a whole, the athletics department and
the CMU softball program itself."
Jonker's touring with the USA Softball program in the past has aided
the CMU program in terms of recruiting.
"In the past summers I have seen some of the top players in the nation
at events like the Junior World Championships," she said. "A lot of
other people have seen me at these events and they are now familiar with
my name and the university."
While on the road with the national team, Margo fulfills her CMU head
coaching duties by using the latest technology to keep in contact with
her assistant coaches and the athletics department personnel.
"It is a much easier task to be able to keep up with my CMU
responsibilities throughout this adventure because of today's
technology," she said. "I am on e-mail daily checking with my
assistants, the administration, the support staff and my players. I
e-mail recruits, I write notes to recruits and call recruits from the
road. I have my cell phone with me at all times.
"I feel it is important that I keep track of what is going on at Central
on a daily basis. Since a lot of correspondence today is done by e-mail
or the phone it has allowed me to stay in touch with CMU even though it
isn't face to face contact. A lot of business people do their business
long distance and this is no different."
Jonker realizes that this adventure would not be possible if it weren't
for CMU allowing her to fulfill both roles.
"I am grateful to the administration at Central for allowing me this
experience," she said. "I am hopeful this will benefit the entire
athletics department and indeed the university and conference. I am
appreciative of the support staff at CMU that they are willing to do
correspondence through e-mail. Many people have been supportive and
have helped me so I could have this opportunity. They have been
awesome. To all of them I would like to say Thank you.'"
Although Olympic coaches do not receive medals, Jonker hopes her
excursion comes to an official end at a gold medal ceremony with the
Star Spangled Banner being played. She's heard the anthem many times
during her numerous years as a player and coach, but this time it will
"That will be emotional," she said. "In fact, it has already been
emotional as I have wondered what it will be like during the national
anthems at CMU games this past season. I'm from a family that is
patriotic so tradition and loyalty are two things I have a lot of. I
also have a lot of pride in my country."