John Zanas: Saying Goodbye and Good Luck to a Man Beloved in the MSHS Athletic Community

Admittedly I tried to ignore Charlie Kinnune, Head Football Coach at Mount Si High School, at first. The holidays are a busy time for stories, I thought, justifying myself. It soon became apparent that this is not a man easily ignored, not when he feels strongly about something or someone.

It turns out Coach Kinnune and many other people in the valley feel VERY strongly about John Zanas.

Zanas opened Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy in 2003, shortly after he and his wife Kristin moved to the area. A Certified Physical Therapist with a vision of becoming a community provider and partner in health for the Snoqualmie Valley, he offered his services to the head coach as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Kinnune had heard from Kamiak High School coaches in Mukilteo that he would be a great addition to the program.

Seventeen years later, Zanas is one of the most influential people in the football program and the athletic department at MSHS.

Coach Kinnune says John completely changed how the program trained, changing their routines, techniques and bringing them up to date in the newest training methods. The program’s injuries depleted, and their wins increased. He spent an unbelievable amount of time with the kids. Their speed and conditioning camps served hundreds every year. Zanas was the leader of Winter and Summer camps for the high school kids. Snow, sleet, rain, hail did not matter; we were out there with the kids training.

The kids loved him and showed it through their commitment and hard work. Soon he started youth speed and conditioning camps working with young athletes in the community. Now the high school has kids that have been training for 10 years in the system Zanas brought.

Soon he began working with ALL athletes. In particular the Boys and Girls soccer programs. Not only was he leading the strength and conditioning program but also coaching sport-specific position techniques. He coached Defensive Backs for 10 years in football—all of this while building one of the strongest businesses’ in the Valley.

“John has meant the world to me. It’s been emotional. Saying goodbye to a person so committed to our kids is truly inspiring” -Charlie Kinnune, Head Football Coach

Soon after I started looking into Zanas, the accolades started pouring in. Principal John Belcher chimed in and told me when he joined the Wildcat Community 10 years ago; John Zanas was one of the first people that got on his` schedule. He spoke as a parent, a business owner, a business partner with MSHS as the business that supplies their athletic trainer, and as a coach.

Says Belcher, his first thought is, who is this guy? In 25 years in High School’s, few are this involved. He was as proud of his work in the school as his career out of school.

He became aware of how truly dedicated Zanas is to the school by going out to August practices and watching what was going on. Even though Belcher came from an Eastern Washington high school that was competitive in athletics, he says what he saw that day blew his mind.

In his previous school, there was a lot of grunting in the weight room. What he saw here was a slew of athletes, boys, and girls, in different sports all working out at Speed Camp. No weights, all bands, and cross-fit, different techniques that were light-years from where he was months earlier. There were alumni helping and current athletes helping, but little adult involvement besides facilitation.

Principal Belcher says he would argue that Zanas has transformed our coaching staff and programs in both boys’ and girls’ sports by his cutting-edge focus on injury prevention.

Belcher also noted Zanas takes pathetic, injury-prone High School Principals, offers free advice, so much, so he has gone to Peak for physical therapy. That business is decorated with Wildcat Memorabilia, along with Jerseys sent to him by athletes who went on to Division One in thanks.

“He will be missed, as a devoted parent, business partner, coach, mentor to many and friend.” -John Belcher, Mt Si High Principal

I tried several times to get in touch with the man himself, but apparently, he’s not a center-of-attention type person. Still, the praises from a community expressing gratitude for his selfless service to so many continued to pour in.

The other coaches at MSHS told me what a great role model John has been in the Snoqualmie Valley for student-athletes and coaches alike. Sophie Rockow, Soccer coach at MSHS, got to experience that from both sides, as she attended his speed camps when she was a student-athlete at Mount Si and then again when they worked together in the Mount Si Girls Soccer Program.

She says John always brought positivity, professionalism, and fun to every workout, speed camp, practice, or game. Above all, he ALWAYS put the student-athletes first with everything that he did. He was a huge key to the Mount Si Girls Soccer Program getting stronger, faster, more confident, and comfortable in the weight room, and will always be a part of the program’s successes in the future.

“We will miss him so much and will be forever thankful for the time and effort he put into the program!” – Sophie Rockow, Head Girls Soccer Coach at Mount Si High School 

Taylor Mitchell, a former student-athlete, says, “at every level of sports, a program’s Strength & Conditioning Coach holds the most influential and essential job. Coaches from every sport within our school and community entrusted John to help develop their athletes and prepare them for their upcoming seasons.”

He says John poured into thousands of athletes’ lives and helped create an identity for the Mount Si High School athletic programs – a blue-collar toughness and work ethic that is not replicated anywhere else. Whether it was ‘Speed Camps’ in 30-degree snow or sideways rain, he was there to push his athletes. It is also where the slogan the “Z Factor” was coined – the “Zanas Factor” and how athletes from the MSHS program were further developed than their peers because of the extra ingredient these other schools were missing, a John Zanas in their program. 

Going on to compete in sports at the collegiate level, there was a night and day difference between athletes trained under John versus those from other programs. Whether it was lifting technique or being more physically prepared than other athletes, all of the credit goes to John.

“As a former student-athlete, I am thankful for everything that John has done for my family and me.” -Taylor Mitchell, former student-athlete, current Associate Head Coach/ Defensive Back Coach

Darren Brown, former AD and soccer coach at MSHS, said John has worked with him as his strength and conditioning coach and as an assistant with both the boys and girls soccer programs since the day he moved to the area.

Brown has always valued his professionalism and dedication to the student-athletes. He says John worked countless hours making sure their athletes were in top shape and would return healthy from an injury. He believes Zanas does not get enough credit for the impact he has made in the valley for all of the success the programs have received.

“John will be missed greatly as a coach, colleague, friend, and advocate for all our sports programs in the Valley. Thank you, JZ, for your dedication, time, and effort that you poured into Mount Si high school. You are a legend!” -Darren Brown, Former AD and Head Boys and Girls Soccer Coach at MSHS

In addition to his coaching colleagues, he is beloved by his staff at Peak PT. Physical therapist Chris Stott praises John as a very supportive boss and says he has thoroughly enjoyed working with him for the last 15 years.

He has personally witnessed numerous occasions when John has gone out of his way to help his patients and athletes on his own time. He is an integral part of the community in Snoqualmie and North Bend by living and coaching in the community.

“There will be a BIG hole when John moves away at the end of the year, and he will be GREATLY missed! GOOD LUCK JOHN!!!” – Chris Stott, Physical Therapist, Peak PT

Dr. Rachel Dillon, a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Peak PT, echoes the rest’s thoughts, saying John consistently puts others ahead of himself, whether his staff, patients, or student-athletes.  He often extends his office hours or comes in on weekends to accommodate patients’ schedules.  He has seen patients as early as 5:30 am and into the night when coaching games or helping with the high school’s athletic trainer.   He is always sensitive to staff’s family situations/schedules and is very flexible on the hour’s other PT’s and PTA’s work in the clinic. 

She has worked for John for 13 years and has always felt supported by him as a PT.  He has challenged her professionally with presentations and gave her opportunities for assistant coaching in cross country and track at the high school.

Dillon says Zanas is an amazing teacher.  In addition to his roles at the high school that others are speaking to, he regularly teaches ASTYM (a physical therapy treatment that regenerates healthy soft tissues and eliminates or reduces unwanted scar tissue that may be causing pain or movement restrictions) all over the country. He and all the staff at Peak PT are certified in this treatment method that has proven highly successful with rehabbing patients.

“John is an amazing boss, physical therapist, teacher, coach, and person.  He will be deeply missed.” -Dr. Rachel Dillon, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Peak PT

Lastly, Russell Kowalinski, the new owner of Peak Sports & Spine PT on the Ridge, has many good things to say. He and Zanas went through a buyout process this time last year but stayed on for the year. He will officially be retiring from the company and moving down to Arizona in early 2021.

Kowalinski says Zanas has been a great mentor over the years. He felt extremely blessed and excited when he offered to sell his practice to him. He figured it was similar to the one he already had as part of his group. He has come to realize that what Zanas has been able to do with the clinic over the years is far beyond what anyone else sees or understands. It goes beyond just the clinic, as he truly loves this community! He has given so much time and selfless effort to help the community of Snoqualmie and North Bend. Trying to mimic and keep up all the work he has done will be a challenge.

While walking through Mt Si High School’s halls, there was rarely anyone, student, or coach, who did not come up to him and say hi or give a wave or head nod. He absolutely loves what he does. He loves helping people, no matter what the cause or reason.

He taught classes with him, saw his attention to detail, diligently got things right, and helped ensure that everyone got the techniques being taught correctly.

“John has helped thousands of patients over the years, and they continue to come back not because of knowing they will get better in his care, but that they will be treated with compassion, empathy, and understanding and he will treat them like an individual, not just a patient. He will truly be missed, and our entire group of 7 clinics will have a huge hole to fill.-Russell Kowalinski, owner of Peak Sports & Spine PT

I never did get a chance to talk to John Zanas, and after hearing what everyone has to say about the man, I think that’s a loss for me. Good Luck in your warm-weather retirement John. You clearly will be sorely missed in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Comments

  1. Larry T White says

    John Zanas is truly one of the good ones. I was the Head Softball coach for Mount Si for 15 amazing seasons. John was always there to serve our student athletes in any way he could.

    His selfless commitment to our program will forever be in all of our minds.

    Thank you John for your selfless service!!

    Miss you my friend!!

    Larry T. White

  2. Chris Jackson says

    A great PT, but a better man. John, I hope you stay in touch. You will be dearly,missed by many,

  3. Zanas!

    I would not have been able to complete my D1 college career without you! You showed interest and care in ME and my injury. Your PT saved me and allowed me to be pain free in my daily life and continue to perform at a top level. I will forever be grateful for you and the time you took to help us athletes stay healthy. You truly are a legend.

    Thank you and God bless!
    Amy (Brevick) Jantzen

  4. I was lucky enough to be a patient of his through a nagging tendinitis injury that just wouldn’t go away until I saw him & my shoulder surgery post op PT. Really great guy!!

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