The 56-year-old has helped a lot of the town’s most gifted players realise their dreams and has given many years to the game ever since he first played as a P6 pupil.
Topically, his ex-charges include current British and Irish Lions squad members Stuart Hogg and Rory Sutherland, Scottish international Darcy Graham and Scottish under-20 player Rhys Tait, along with Lisa Thomson, an ex-Scotland women’s captain also in Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 rugby sevens squad, and Scottish front row Lana Skeldon.
Johnstone, real name John, admits it is pleasing to see players go on and accomplish such feats as playing for Scotland.
“It’s absolutely brilliant to see them all succeed, but I got as much pleasure taking the next player to the next level,” he said. “My passion was the coaching and the conditioning, and combining the two,” he said.
He first encountered Hogg, 29, and Thomson, 23, during a Borders primary school rugby event, and their paths crossed again at later age levels.
He also advised Sutherland, 28, to switch from playing back-row to front.
Born and raised in Hawick, health and fitness enthusiast Johnstone never had any ambitions to move to another club, saying he wanted to help and nurture the rugby skills of young people in his home-town and he had loved that job over the years. He became development officer at Mansfield Park in 2004.
Trained by the late Bill McLaren, he started off playing as a winger but later moved to the back row of the scrum, then the front, where he played in all three positions.
Now, though, he has decided to take a back-seat, saying: “I started a long time ago in this business and it’s time to let some other young enthusiast take over because it takes up your life.”
Johnstone, married to Dorothy and dad to sons Dale and Gary, said he’d appreciated getting some nights and weekends back during the lay-off caused by coronavirus, so he’ll take some time now to decide what to do with his life.
He still hopes to visit Mansfield Park but intends to “relax and pick and choose when I want to do rugby”.