Back in 1963, when Janie Litchford was in seventh grade and attending school at Frisco ISD’s original complex of buildings on Maple Street, she already knew that she wanted to be a teacher.
“I really did,” Litchford said. “I think teaching and coaching is a calling.”
That calling has led to a distinguished 43-year career that has included coaching volleyball and teaching subjects such as English, reading, health and driver’s education. Litchford coached and taught in Allen and Longview, but fortunately for FISD, she returned to her hometown in the summer of 1986 when Frisco High School had an opening for a teacher and volleyball coach.
Litchford, who is now the volleyball coach, assistant campus athletic coordinator and P.E. Department Chair at FHS, said she was thrilled to get a chance to teach and coach at her alma mater. But it was also a little scary.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to be teaching my peers’ children. Don’t mess this up,’” she said with a laugh. “But that was such a great experience to get to coach my friends’ kids. That was very special.”
Litchford has had many special moments during her career in FISD, including coaching her daughter, Courtney. Coach Litchford’s volleyball teams in 2013, ’14 and ’15 each won more than 30 games, and back in 1992, Frisco went all the way to a regional final. One of the players on that team was Stacey Shope, who is now head coach of the Frisco girls track and cross country teams.
“It’s such a unique and special experience getting to coach alongside one of the people who was such an influential part of me wanting to become a coach in the first place,” Shope said of Litchford. “She is just as passionate about coaching as she was when I was in school. She’s usually the first to get to the gym and the last to leave.”
Volleyball has changed a lot since Litchford began coaching. The game is faster paced, she said, and players develop earlier with the influx of club teams and private coaches. FISD has changed even more in the last 33 years, expanding from one high school to 10, but “Coach Litch” likes how the District has kept its high schools at a size that allows students to participate in multiple sports and activities.
Litchford, whose son, Zach, still lives in Frisco, said her time with FISD has been a “blessing.” After her husband of 42 years, Robert, died in January of 2016, Litchford said her friends in the District were tremendously supportive. So were the students, and Litchford said it’s the kids that keep her motivated.
“I hope that I’ve made an impact on my students and athletes,” she said. “That’s the legacy that I would like to leave behind. Winning is great, but I hope I’ve taught them life lessons.”