Joanne P. McCallie - a “Secret Warrior” with bipolar disorder

The former Michigan State women’s basketball coach wrote a new book that takes a look at her personal life
Former MSU basketball coach opens up about mental health journey
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:19 PM EST
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Mental health is not always easy to talk about, even for people in the spotlight.

“There was fear of losing my job, not being able to coach, and obviously, fear of my health,” said former Michigan State women’s basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie.

It started in Oct. 1995 when McCallie was diagnosed at age 30. She had two episodes during her first coaching stint at Maine. Her family recognized it, but she kept it a secret from the team.

“They didn’t know until I had to miss practice,” said McCallie. “I was out for two weeks getting treatment and there was a lot of conjecture and guesswork at that point because I wasn’t at practice, but it was not clear.”

She was a successful coach at three schools - Maine, Michigan State, and Duke - with a 646-255 coaching record and 21 NCAA Tournament appearances. She was also a mother of two and a wife. There were a lot of roles to play all while keeping her health to herself.

“That was on purpose. Very concerned, scared, trying to get me a doctor, trying to get me the appropriate treatment, trying to get me on board. Fighting very hard to get through the day,” said McCallie. “Obviously still working and enjoying my coaching as an escape, but at the same time coming home, not sleeping, dealing with the same issue. I continued through my work to a point and then I was hospitalized.”

She kept asking herself, “Why me, a successful athlete and coach?”

“You’re in denial, you’re not aware, and you actually don’t believe the people. You begin to think that something is wrong with them, and not you. It takes quite a group of people to get your attention,” said McCallie. “You cannot believe your mind has decided to take its own path and operate differently and no point did I ever think that my mind could get away from me in that manner.”

She finally became comfortable with it and felt she had the platform to share the news when she took the Spartans to the NCAA National Championship but was counseled to wait. At the time, she wrote her feelings down and rediscovered her thoughts a year later.

“I found a note that said ‘Can I tell my story now? Is it time?’” said McCallie. “I write in the mornings and have morning time and sometimes ask myself these kinds of questions and I felt eager to do it.”

When the pandemic hit in March and she left Duke in July, she knew after 28 years as a head coach that this was the time to share her story through her new book, ‘Secret Warrior: A Coach & Fighter, On and Off the Court”.

“I think it’s a book about loyalty. I think it’s a book about education for mental health, particularly bipolar. I’m just very, very fortunate,” said McCallie. “I’ve had fabulous doctors, wonderful friends, and the opportunity to lead a very balanced life and I’d like to share it.”

This book chronicles her personal journey and as she says, the warriors that are all part of this.

“Secret Warrior” will be released on Feb 16. You can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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