BY ARI KASER
Wadsworth High School head boy’s soccer coach John Johnson was one of five soccer coaches selected to receive the United Soccer Coaches Letter of Commendation, an award given out annually by the United Soccer Coaches Convention to honor a coach’s service to high school soccer.
“I found out about a week ago that I was nominated,” said Johnson. “They called me Saturday morning and told me that I got it.”
Johnson, who is also the president of the Ohio Soccer Coaches Association, a title he has held for 20 years, has been coaching soccer for 32 years, with 24 of those being at Wadsworth, where he also teaches economics and government classes
“Part of it has to do with service, so I think it means I’ve been around a long time,” said Johnson.
Soccer has been a part of Johnson’s life for a long time. He played in both high school and college, and then started coaching high schoolers because of the impression that his high school coach had on him. Johnson won the award due to his service to high school soccer, but the award is also focused on the impact that the coaches have on the sport and its players.
“He pulled me aside one day and told me that it was time to stop taking from the sport and to give back,” said Johnson, reflecting on one of his own former coaches. “‘Keep coaching, but give back to others.’ That just resonated with me, and I try to tell my players the same thing. I wanted to give back into something that opened up a lot of doors for me.”
Johnson also recalled that his former coach was like a second father to him, another trait he attempts to recreate: His goal with his players is to build a relationship with them, similar to the relationship he had with his own coaches.
“My favorite part of coaching would certainly be the relationships that I get to form with players,” said Johnson. “Running into players from the past or just my current players… I love it when they stop in just to say hi.”
Johnson’s coaching philosophy has not always been the same, however. According to Johnson, he was a “horrendous” coach at the beginning of his career. He was unsure on how to break things down, and questioned the proper way to coach the players. Since then, he has been able to go through national coaching schools to better his ability to help his players.
“I talk to my players about what they like and what they don’t like and then we work to change it,” said Johnson. “I am working on putting together a leadership program because they need to learn how to be a leader.”
Johnson thanks his family for supporting him, and mentions that they are the reason that he has come this far, noting how his wife has kept him going as a coach
“At times where I wanted to step away and do something else, she’s the one that told me no,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s service and impact on the Wadsworth varsity boys soccer team has made him a leader in the soccer community, and although he soon plans on stepping back from some of his bigger responsibilities, he will continue to coach high school soccer for years to come.