A Tribute to a Softball Coach and Life MentorOct 11, 2017
Every athlete has one special coach over their lifetime they will forever remember and appreciate because of the life lessons, support, and mentorship the coach taught them.
For the Moore High School Softball team, that coach was Coach Joe Johnson.
Coach Johnson was orginally hired as the assistant fast-pitch softball coach in spring 2013. After going back to baseball a year later, he returned to coach softball in the fall of 2014. In spring 2015, Johnson took over as the head coach for the slow-pitch team.
“Even though he had no base knowledge of slow pitch softball other than it was still softball, he didn't shy away from the uphill battle," said Coach Stephanie Riley.
The challenges of learning a new type of game, acclimating to a new team, and earning their respect as the new head coach did not deter Johnson. He understood that it would take time and effort to form a team bond, especially when bringing in a new leadership and coaching style.
“It was probably a month into the season when the girls bought into his philosophy,” said Riley. “It was a definite turning point for the girls and Coach Johnson.”
The positive relationships Johnson intentionally developed with his players were important for the girls. For senior Alyssia Crisk, he was more than a softball coach.
“Coach Johnson was like a second father to me,” said Crisk. “He was always there for me if had a problem – softball related or not.”
However, Johnson's brain cancer diagnosis in 2015 flipped the team's world upside down.
“It hit me hard,” said Crisk. “He was always a person I could run to and knowing he wasn’t going to be on the field with me every day was rough.”
Over the next 26 months, Johnson fought and fought, but he passed away on August 29.
“Coach Johnson’s diagnosis made me realize you don’t always get the time with the people you want,” said Crisk.
Because of the way Johnson built the team into a family, his players, in turn, have made a commitment to be more intentional with their families.
“It’s been my number one priority to get my players to understand the dynamics of family,” said Riley. “I believe we’ve done a good job with that.”
Riley goes on to say parents of players have expressed their thankfulness for those efforts. They thanked Riley for small things such as having their children home more often for dinner or they explain how their family has more intentional time with one another.
“Those are life lessons Coach Johnson had that we are still practicing today,” said Riley. “Even though he's not with us, all his memorabilia remain and he is still a member of this coaching staff.”