JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — One new Marble Falls High School head coach is coming home, while another is accepting a promotion. And a third is making Marble Falls her new home.
Athletic director Matt Green announced the moves after the board of trustees approved the recommendations during its regular meeting June 20.
John Berkman, who graduated from Marble Falls in 2001, returns as the girls head basketball coach and girls athletic coordinator. He last worked for the school district in 2009 and resigned to become the athletic director and boys head basketball coach at Faith Academy of Marble Falls. He resigned that position in 2012 and worked as a youth pastor at Hill Country Fellowship Church, where he was until accepting the job with the Lady Mustangs.
Head cross-country and girls head track coach Anthony Torns added another title: Lady Mustangs strength and conditioning coach, a position that had been agreed upon before administrators began interviewing head coaching candidates, Green said.
And Jessica Withrow is the new volleyball coach. She worked for Lubbock Coronado and Sweetwater for the past six years as an assistant. She was the girls head track coach in Sweetwater.
Green said Berkman is a great fit for the school district.
“He is a Marble Falls kid,” Green said. “He’s from here, he grew up here, he played athletics here.”
Berkman, the son of former Marble Falls head boys basketball coach Larry Berkman, graduated in 2001. His first job after graduating from college was as an assistant coach for former Marble Falls boys head basketball coach Clint Baty, the elder Berkman’s assistant.
In February, former Lady Mustangs head coach David Schubert approached Berkman about being the girls summer team coach. He had no idea how events would unfold in the next few months.
“I thought he was going to remain here, and I was just going to help him out,” John Berkman said.
Berkman had applied for the Marble Falls boys head coaching position that eventually went to Matt Bailey.
“The Lord has everything under control,” he said. “Sometimes, we get ahead of Him. He’s the one who led me to the girls job. I have to give Him all the credit.”
Berkman said it’s a blessing to have developed a relationship with the Lady Mustangs team already.
“Relationships side is huge,” he said. “The best programs have players who are willing to do what the coach wants.”
Green likes Berkman’s desire to stay in the area and work with young people here.
“He bleeds purple, that’s the number one thing,” Green said. “Those girls need someone who’s going to come in and stay and somebody who bleeds purple. John is the right fit at the right time for what these Marble Falls girls need.”
“I’m excited to be back in coaching and at Marble Falls where my roots are,” Berkman said. “I’m excited to take the challenge to bring success back to Marble Falls basketball.”
Torns’ promotion means he is officially performing tasks on strength and conditioning that he had been performing for the past year.
The difference, Green said, is that each new head coach knows Torns’ position in the department and that he is a valuable resource in strength and conditioning and coaches will work with him in getting the Lady Mustangs ready for their upcoming seasons.
“He’ll have strong input,” the athletic director said. “They’ll build strength and speed and continue to build cohesiveness.”
But to Torns, his position is about athletic development.
“Strength and conditioning is something I want to do, especially starting with the girls in (Marble Falls) middle school,” he said. “In pre-athletics for our sixth-graders, we need to make sure we have a solid foundation for when they move into the seventh and eighth grades. Then, they can continue to perfect what we want to see.”
Once the middle school athletes develop a love for sports, they’ll stick to playing them when they reach Marble Falls High School, he said. He envisions continuing to assist the head coaches in getting their players ready for upcoming varsity competitions in all sports. Through conversations with them, Torns develops strength-and-conditioning programs that can be sport-specific or one program that all Lady Mustangs use, no matter the sport.
He credits Schubert for the chance to coordinate a strength-and-conditioning program and allowing him to work with the middle school coaches last year.
“We’re going to get a lot more accomplished,” he said. “That’s what I wanted.”
Withrow was an NCAA Division II national heptathlete national champion while she competed for Abilene Christian University.
Ironically, she met Torns during a Texas High School Girls Coaching Association satellite clinic two weeks ago when Torns was a guest speaker.
She found him during one of the dinners and expressed excitement about interviewing for a job in the athletic department. Torns said he contacted Green and told him he thought Withrow was a solid candidate.
Because of her track background, track will be her second sport.
“She knows what it takes to win at the highest level, she understands what it takes to win,” Torns said. “She’ll hold a lot of respect from the kids and will give them the example of what it really takes to get to that level.”
“She’ll be a tremendous role model with integrity, honesty and team work,” Green said. “We talked to her about longevity. Our girls can’t have people who come in and leave.”
Green said a Lady Mustangs volleyball camp is in the works.