Even old coaches can learn new tricks.
Ray Johnson was proud of his healthy ways. His mornings arrived with a glass of orange juice and a big ol’ bagel. It was as normal to the winningest prep coach in San Diego County history as toasting another victory.
Then Johnson felt the tug from his daughter.
“Dad, that seems great but that’s a big shot of sugar with a ton of carbs,’’ Megan Johnson McCullough told him.
So the kid took pops under her wing and all was not lost. Just his belly.
“She questioned a lot of things I was eating,’’ Johnson said.
There’s no question it was for the better.
“He got rid of his beer gut,’’ she laughed.
Smiles and shedding pounds is the norm at Johnson McCullough’s Every Body’s Fit in Oceanside. A former El Camino hoops star, she is coaching in another way.
Instead of dishing advice to players, as she did as a girls basketball coach at Oceanside and Carlsbad highs, Johnson McCullough is working with all ages of both genders.
“It’s kind of cool,’’ she said. “I’m still coaching but it’s just a different avenue.’’
Johnson McCullough is 30 going on 20. Her fitness level is off-the-charts and she has the body building trophies to prove it.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. After dipping her toe into the coaching world, she thought about a legal career. A stint as a paralegal proved otherwise.
“I hated it,’’ she said. “It was awful.’’
She looked into the fitness world and something clicked. She met another woman who owned a workout studio and Johnson McCullough said, “why not me?”
Five years ago Johnson McCullough found a spot and, of course, called her father with her idea.
“I showed up with my Dad, ‘Will you co-sign for me?’’’ she said. “I was 25 and had no credit to my name. But the owner said, ‘You really look like a girl with a dream and I’ll give you a shot.’ Five years later it all worked out.’’
Now the gym is buzzing with activity, with everyone from a teenager getting ripped to a 75-year-old getting loose.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“At first I just waited, hoping for people to walk through the door,’’ she said. “About six months later it started picking up and now we are in a really good place.’’
Johnson McCullough’s approach is well-rounded. She organizes workouts, makes meal plans, gives inspirational chats in person or through social media. Just like preparing a team to be sharp, she wants her clients to be at their best.
Or maybe she is just getting revenge.
“She beats me up pretty good,” said John Farrell, her El Camino coach and a regular at Every Body’s Fit. “I’m not surprised she’s been so successful at this. She’s always been so driven to be the best in whatever she’s doing.
“She always guarded the best player on the other team, she was our top scorer and she was always up at 5 a.m. for shooting practice.”
Now she aims for physical fitness reaching everyone in her longtime community.
“I have former teachers, coaches, players coming in so it has a very local feel to it,’’ Johnson McCullough said. “It’s fun and I really enjoy it. It’s not like going to work.
“I’m a wellness coach. I let people know I will be with them through their fitness journey as they build habits that become established, that will last and lead to lifestyle changes.’’
Johnson can feel it. So can others patting the spot where his belly once resided.
“She’s pretty good at taking you to the limit,” said Johnson, an assistant men’s coach at Cal State San Marcos. “She knows how to get to muscle groups you haven’t used and revitalize some old body parts.’’
That game plan makes sense, from one coach to another.
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Read his book “Game of My Life Chargers,” available at local book stores and amazon.com.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports