When Katie Jackson takes to the sideline for Northrop’s first game this fall, it will mark over 15 years since the last time she coached at the prep level.
But as the new Bruins girls’ hoops coach, Jackson points out that while it has been awhile since she was last at the helm of a high school program, she has still been around the game.
“I have never stopped coaching,” Jackson said. “I stopped coaching at North Side (in 2006) because I started a family. But then I got into refereeing and as my kids got older I started coaching them in the AAU realm. While I stepped away from coaching at a school, I never stepped away from the game of basketball.”
Now, Jackson is back, ready to use her vast hoops knowledge – as a player and coach at North Side to playing in college at IPFW and overseas – to help the Bruins return to a consistent area contender.
“When I was at North Side, Northrop was the team to beat (in the early to mid 90s),” said Jackson, who has been an administrator within Fort Wayne Community Schools for over a decade. “They were the team that always got to semistate. To be told ‘Katie, we value you enough as a coach to build Northrop to that caliber again’ is something I find exciting.”
Jackson has been a staff member within FWCS since she was 23 years old, and has most recently been an administrator at Lakeside Middle School. Under the guidance of Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel, the school district has opened the doors for administrators to also coach athletic programs, something that was not allowed previously.
“When I think of a job that I am most fit for, it is working in a school,” Jackson said. “To piggy-back that with coaching is a tremendous opportunity.”
Northrop has not won a postseason title of any kind since 2009, but the program is not far off. Coach Rashida Muhammad led the Bruins to four-straight seasons of 13 or more victories from 2016-20, including a 20-win campaign in 2017-18.
Kevin Clopton’s single season in 2020-21 ended with a 9-12 record.
“There are certain pieces at Northrop, because of my connections through AAU, that I have coached already,” Jackson said. “And already having a relationship with (Northrop Athletic Director) Bob Shank was huge.”
With twin daughters Saniya and Nevaeh heading into their junior season and son Jalen prepping for his senior campaign, the belief was that Jackson would not get back into high school coaching until after her children had moved on.
Jackson explained why the time was now.
“I am a firm believer that opportunity knocks softly, and when it does, you have to take advantage,” said Jackson, who did not want to comment on where her children will attend school this upcoming year. “As a parent, I am very fortunate the game of basketball has given me and my family so much. But you cannot live your dream through your kids, you have to let them be a kid first and a basketball player second.
“My passion for basketball started as a two-year old little girl dribbling in the corner of the PAL Center. Northrop is a great opportunity and I am thankful for everyone that has faith in me.”