U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”

Johnston_(headshot).png (79 KB)

  • Name: Kathryn Johnston
  • School: York University
  • Position: Athlete Services Coordinator
  • Seniority: Six years
  • Previous job/position: Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach
  • Hometown: Toronto


1. How did you get to your current position, and what do you enjoy most about our job?

My journey began at York U as the assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2013. When an opportunity was presented to move into more of an administrative and educational role, I was excited to diversify my skillset and experience new challenges in a different capacity within the Lions community.

The most enjoyable aspect of this role is organizing the PAWS program for first year student-athletes. This transition program partners first year student-athletes with upper year mentors and through an established curriculum, the mentors and mentees meet once a week throughout the fall and winter semesters. During this time, there is a learning session catered to pertinent topics for student success and a guided study time and a chance to interact with peers and mentors. I love facilitating these sessions and learning from each of the students as they all have a unique circumstances and goals and it is my hope to help them navigate their pathway to graduation.

Johnston_(3).JPG (336 KB)

2. Who has had the most influence on your career?

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from so many inspirational and motivational people through many different walks of life. My partner, family, friends, colleagues, supervisor, students, and administrators have provided unique perspectives, support and knowledge to help me on my journey.

3. What is your greatest sporting moment or achievement?

Completing the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in a running relay with friends, family and lab mates. Through the elements (snow, wind, rain, hail, sun) we completed 274 km in 48 hours across a spectacular (and hilly) Canadian landscape. We finished the weekend with a lobster dinner with hundreds of hungry, tired runners. Hope to see you soon Nova Scotia!

4. How would you define a York University student-athlete?

The York Lions are a hard-working group of student-athletes. Having seen them train from a physical perspective (as a strength coach) and psychological/mental perspective (as the athlete services coordinator), I value and appreciate the energy, perseverance and preparation that these students-athletes exude on their pathway to excellence. Being a York Lion means there is always a family close. I love walking around the campus and seeing the student-athletes wearing their York gear proudly and supporting one another at games.

Johnston_(1).jpeg (143 KB)

5. What does success look like for the York University athletics program?

Success is seeing our first-year student-athletes transition from high school to university with new friends, a new knowledge base, and new aspirations.

Success is watching student athletes overcome immense challenges and still achieve Academic All-Canadian status.

Success is applauding the student-athletes as they accept their graduating player awards on their field of play in front of family, friends, coaches and staff.  

Our greatest measure of success is watching the student-athletes walk across the stage at their graduation and hearing the incredible contributions they are making around the world.

6. Where would you like to see Canadian university sport in the next three to five years?

I would be thrilled to see support services increase for student-athletes across Canada. We have seen the impact that having a multidisciplinary sport medicine team can have on the health and performance of student-athletes; we have seen improvements in GPA with increased academic supports; we have had positive feedback with the integration of accessibility services and enhancement of student wellness initiatives. For this to happen, many experts and resources and have come together, but I can foresee this being a continued priory for many schools in the future as we continue to work towards enhancing student-athlete experience.

7. If you could sit down for dinner with one person in the sports industry (athlete, coach or manager), who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?

I would choose to sit down with Dr. Joe Baker, one of the world’s leading sport scientists in the realm of sport psychology for elite sport performance. While we have had many opportunities to sit and chat, I am constantly finding new questions to ask about talent development, skill acquisition and how to be a better researcher. He is also a distance runner and Iron Man competitor, so I have a lot of questions about survival during the training and tips for staying afloat during the swim – I need help!

Johnston_(2).JPG (397 KB)

8. What would you say to a sports fan who’s never watched a U SPORTS game/tournament/competition?

U SPORTS offers some of the most accessible, enjoyable and diverse sporting opportunities for fans. It is one of the greatest platforms for supporting women’s sporting endeavours and a great way to spend an evening or weekend supporting local athletic superstars, seeing a competitive performance with a great in-game experience, and to possibly go home with some cool swag!

9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from work?

While my roots are in Toronto, my time on weekends is spent in the gardens and the forests on our family farm. Whether it is harvesting our fruits and vegetables, going for trail runs in the countryside or working on a landscaping project, there is always something purposeful and fun to do that allows us to be outside, being active and enjoying time together. I am currently competing a PhD at York and enjoy getting lost (sometimes really lost) in a challenging field of research.