Happy New Year…It may seem a little early to be talking about January 1st but I am referring to the new school year instead. Back to school is the most exciting time of the year for me—the anticipation and energy surrounding it is amazing. I guess this is because school is a way of life for me.
I am the child of two career teachers/coaches. My parents are both retired from teaching now, but they share in my enthusiasm. Their enthusiasm is to get back to watching my kids play sports.
Bringing the Community Together
I love the way an entire community rallies around the start of the school year. People are excited about the start of fall athletics and can’t wait to find out how good this year’s team is going to be. Fall athletics are the front porch of any high school.
Athletics began the second Monday of August and fall sports will have their first games of the year before classes are in session. The crowds for these games are quite a spectacle. They are the year’s largest gatherings of students, teachers, parents, and other community members.
I remember back to my youth how excited my dad would be going into the first football game and all of the neighbors stopping over to get a preview of the game as a way to pass the time until kick off. I also remember the weekend at the cabin after that first game and how the mood was determined by the game.
Changing Seasons Bring Fall Athletics
The start of the new school year has always brought about a sense of renewal bigger then the change of seasons from winter to spring. School administrators know how important a successful fall athletic campaign is to get the school year off to a great start. Winning athletic teams seem to put a bounce in everyone’s step and continue the back to school excitement from contest to contest. Ultimately the community will ride this wave of School Spirit into Homecoming Week which is filled with festivities that will culminate the night of the Homecoming football game and the dance to follow.
It is amazing to see some of the changes to the kids over the summer, some of our volunteer football coaches that show up in the fall are amazed at how big or fast some of the guys that they haven’t seen in nine months have become. I guess when you see the kids everyday sometimes the changes aren’t as obvious, kind of like my own kids at home I guess.
Athletes progress and develop at different rates throughout the year but their development all comes together by the end of summer. Some of the multi-sport athletes just haven’t had an opportunity to dedicate all their efforts into a training program. These are the kids that have been competing all year and now can finally step back and just train. Others need the extra time to catch up with their peers and to continue to progress in their workouts. It is equally as fun to see the reactions to the coaches and their excitement in seeing these athletes again. To transition athletes for off-season, this article has a lot of information on how strength coaches can benefit athletes and coaches across a variety of sports.
The Power of a New Year
As the sun starts rising a little later and setting a little sooner, remember the smell of a freshly waxed school hallway; the sight of kids in new outfits carrying blank tablets and jockeying for position at the cool lunch tables; and the palpable excitement over summer romances and the nerves of the first football game of the year. It is amazing to think of how I absolutely could not wait for summer break last June. but now as I sit here writing with my new shoes on, I couldn’t be more excited to get back to school and play our first football game in a week and a half. There is no denying the power of heading back to school each fall. Happy New Year.
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.