Joanne Skertich to be Inducted into Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
NEW ORLEANS (July 13, 2021) – Joanne Skertich, who won 13 state championships in 25 years as the volleyball coach at Isidore Newman School, has been selected for induction into the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Skertich is one of five standout local sports figures who will be added to the Hall of Fame this year. Each year’s Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
Overall, 23 individuals and two teams will be honored this year for their achievements at the committee’s annual awards banquet on Saturday, July 24. Honorees are being announced over a period of 23 days, wrapping up with the Corbett Awards for the top male and female amateur athletes in the state on July 20 and 21.
Jimmy Collins Special Awards: Dr. Greg Stewart, Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine
Outstanding Boys’ Prep Coach of the Year, New Orleans: Gerald Lewis, St. Augustine Basketball
Outstanding Girls’ Prep Coach of the Year, New Orleans: Julie Ibieta, Metairie Park Country Day Volleyball
Outstanding Female Amateur Athlete, New Orleans: Kristen Nuss, LSU Beach Volleyball
Outstanding Male Amateur Athlete, New Orleans: Jared Butler, Baylor Basketball
Eddie Robinson Award: Sidney Parfait, American Legion Baseball
Outstanding Boys’ Prep Team, New Orleans: McMain High School Basketball
Outstanding Girls’ Prep Team, New Orleans: Dominican Volleyball
Outstanding Collegiate Coach, Louisiana: Dennis Shaver, LSU Track & Field
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Inductee: Les Bonano, Boxing
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Inductee: Bernard Griffith, Basketball
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Inductee: Joanne Skertich, Volleyball
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 14 (Wednesday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 Inductee: July 15 (Thursday)
Corbett Award – Female: July 20 (Tuesday)
Corbett Award – Male: July 21 (Wednesday)
Joanne Skertich – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2021
Story by Ed Cassiere of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee
Joanne Skertich, who led the girls’ volleyball program at Isidore Newman School from Title IX infancy to record-setting performances at the state level, coached the Greenies for 25 seasons (1977-2001), and ended her career firmly atop the Louisiana High School Athletic Association volleyball mountain. Her final Newman team was 31-2, unbeaten against Louisiana opponents and a state champion for the seventh consecutive season and the ninth time in 10 years.
Skertich still holds the Louisiana record for state volleyball championships won by a head coach, 13. She won her first in 1985, then did it again in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Newman volleyball did something the legendary John Curtis Christian football program – winner of nearly 30 state championships – has yet to accomplish: win seven consecutive state titles and nine in 10 years.
Complete records are not available for her 25 seasons, but Skertich’s Newman teams were 578-100 (.853) in her final 17 seasons (1985-2001). During that closing state-title run, the Greenies were 246-27 (.901) in seven seasons and 70-3 (.959) the final two years.
“I was lucky to be part of Newman volleyball,” Skertich said. “If you can establish it and be successful, it becomes contagious. The program was well-supported from the start by the Newman administration. I wasn’t on an island by myself. We have beautiful facilities. And I was blessed to have so many of our players grow up with me in the lower grades.”
Skertich, who grew up in suburban Metairie and graduated from Archbishop Chapelle, arrived at Newman in 1974 as a 24-year-old physical education teacher with a degree from the University of New Orleans. Intramurals – Newman’s longtime Girls Athletic Committee – were the firmly established culture at that time.
But Skertich’s duties changed when two Newman students, Ti Adelaide Martin and Cindy Rippner, petitioned the school’s administration to start a varsity volleyball program to compete against other schools. The administration approved the program and Martin and Rippner’s request that Skertich coach the team.
“We could relate to coach Skertich,” said Rippner, a 1978 graduate and now known as Cindy Rippner Kurtz. “We liked her. But we also had great respect for her. She brought out the best in us, instilled confidence in us and treated us like adults. We were outgunned by opponents when we started out, but it didn’t matter.”
Skertich never coached club volleyball but encouraged her athletes to join those programs during the prep offseason. “The X’s and O’s were taught by the club coaches,” Skertich said. “I took that knowledge and turned it into a team. I set some guidelines, and it worked for me for a really long time.”
In Newman’s sixth season, 1982, the Greenies made their first of three consecutive state semifinal appearances. They finally broke through in the 1985 Class 2A state final at New Iberia, rallying from a 12-8 deficit in the third set for a 7-15, 15-2, 15-12 championship victory against Episcopal of Baton Rouge. That Newman team had one returning starter from the previous year.
Newman kept rolling under Skertich, reaching a state final 14 of the next 16 seasons and winning the championship 12 more times. Her Greenies were unbeaten in their final nine appearances in state finals. Skertich’s coaching career ended in 2001 after another state-title victory against Episcopal, 15-9, 5-15, 15-5.
“She’s the kind of coach you hope your kids get to play for,” said Lizzy Stemke, who as Lizzy Fitzgerald won Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year awards in her final two Newman seasons, 1996 and 1997. “When you played for Ms. Skertich, you knew how to work together. Teamwork was her foundation. She knew all about volleyball and how to coach it. I learned volleyball from Ms. Skertich. But it was much more than that. She prepared us for anything in life.”
Newman’s other two-time Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year, Meg Henican (2000 and 2001), fondly recalled the preseason team trips to Florida. “Those were bonding events,” Henican said. “Coach Skertich would put us in small groups. Freshmen would be with seniors. The groups had to prepare a meal for the team and plan the entire thing – creating the budget, shopping, cooking, cleaning up. I have great memories of the Florida trips. They were part of the little things that built a team.”
This will be Skertich’s second Hall of Fame induction. She was enshrined in the Louisiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 65th year in 2021. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 99 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 19 Heisman Trophy winners in its 87-year history. The 88th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, which will feature top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, is scheduled to be played on January 1, 2022. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.7 billion into the local economy in the last decade.