Leading and Coaching with Purpose
Several years ago, Joe Johnson moved his family from the plains of Kansas to the mountains of North Carolina to take over the reins of the athletic department at a small but growing school in the Swannanoa Valley. Now in his 14th year as athletic director at Asheville Christian Academy, Johnson leads a program that has seen incredible amounts of success represented by a gym full of state championship banners.
Winning has been a staple of ACA teams during his tenure but he measures success in a much different way. “Wining is our goal but it’s not our purpose,” said Johnson. He’s been living and working with this philosophy for years and over the summer became a nationally certified instructor in a new athletic program called 3D Coaching which helped pinpoint that mission.
3D Coaching is a new approach to athletics that moves beyond just the fundamentals of coaching and into a second dimension which focuses on motivation, team cohesion and goal setting. The program is capped by its third dimension which centers around the heart of the athlete. It provides coaches with strategies to dig into the holistic approach to athletics with emphasis on identity, character, significance, self-worth, values, and purpose.
“3D Coaching is what we’ve been about at ACA for years but it’s given us language and strategy to what our mission athletically is all about,” said Johnson. “It’s about coaching and leading in a transformative way, working from the inside out.”
“A 3D Coach understands the difference between goals and purpose,” Johnson continues. “It helps young people in their search for who they are and why they are here beyond sport yet using the sport as a tool to discover that purpose.”
Johnson’s years in scholastic athletics have given him great insight into challenges facing high school sports. One such issue is sports specialization. Many parents and students believe that college scholarships are possible if not probable if they focus all their time and energy in one sport. Johnson disagrees. “Sports specialization is not ideal for most kids. I think kids miss out on so much when they only focus on one sport,” said Johnson. “The availability of athletic scholarship money is just not out there for most kids. The real money is in academics for the vast majority of students.”
Johnson also sees entitlement being an issue in today’s sport culture across not only high school sports but in all areas from youth sports and into the professional ranks. “Entitlement creeps its way into high school sports. Instead of competing and playing for the enjoyment and holistic aspects of competition too many athletes are concerned only about what’s in it for them.”
Johnson quickly points out that he’s very optimistic about the future of high school sports because administrators and coaches are understanding that applying research is making changes to these issues and others. “When people get educated they find truth,” Johnson said.
There are still so many benefits that come with playing high school sports. “I’m convinced there are certain life lessons that can only be duplicated in a team or competitive setting,” said Johnson. “Such as winning and losing, learning how to cope with failure and not letting it crush you. Learning where to place your identity. Is it in the scoreboard or is it in something much more than that? Understanding who you are.”
Johnson has developed a transformative purpose statement which states: To Inspire athletes and coaches to live life in courage, in freedom and in love. “That resonates with me spiritually first and foremost,” said Johnson. Perfect love casts off all fear and one of the greatest things we can do at ACA is to motivate our kids to love.”