By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, posted 10/19/11
Arthur “AJ” Johnson has been named head coach at Father Judge.
Johnson was head coach at Mastery Charter-Shoemaker in the Public League the past two years. A LEAPS Lax volunteer coach, Johnson learned his trade under LEAPS founders John Christmas and Eric Gregg after starring in football and track at Simon Gratz and Upper Moreland. He later played club lacrosse at East Stroudsburg.
Johnson inherits a team that went 3-12 overall and 2-8 in the Catholic League last year under Tom Sinnott.
Johnson answered these questions about his new role as Judge coach:
What are your goals for the 2012 season?
Johnson “My goals for this season are get the kids to understand that this is a family more than just a team. That they have to help each other not only on the field, but also off the field and in the classroom. So far, I am getting tremendous support. The key is to get my student-athletes to believe that they can be successful.”
What is your coaching philosophy?
Johnson: “Without giving up the entire plan, I want to build a strong foundation from the seniors down to the freshmen. We want to gain more support from their families, friends, the Father Judge community, and Northeast Lacrosse. While starting anew, I plan to keep some traditions that were at FJ in the past, but enforce them more. The plan is not just to win, but to gain RESPECT; my team has to accomplish this through hard work.”
“I believe that you can show anyone a 1-4-1 or a 2-2-2 offensive set. Teaching student-athletes the basics is the key. If you can’t pass, catch, shoot or scoop a ground ball proficiently and in clutch situations, the battle is already lost. My philosophy is keep the basic skills sharp.
“I love to coach, period. I wanted to take a shot at building a program which in the past teams looked on their schedule as a easy win. I had the chance to coach a few of Father Judge’s student-athletes at this past summer’s Keystone State Games and they understood my philosophy and coaching techniques instantly. When the Father Judge head coaching opportunity presented itself, I thought it was serendipitous.
“Being the ‘little brother’ to L.E.A.P.S. Administrators John Christmas and St. Joe’s Prep Coach Eric Gregg was a reality check. It opened my eyes a lot to how the game is really played. Watching my ‘big brothers’ at work showed me how to separate myself from others, as far as the relationship with players as a head coach opposed to an assistant coach’s relationships with players. The Public League, toughened my skin even more. I ‘jumped into the deep end’ and had to hold my own. I was very young, being a 24-year-old head coach and was very hard headed at times. It actually helped me mature and humbled me. It turned me into not only a better coach, but a stronger man at the age of 26. Not having a assistant coach at Mastery-Shoemaker made me learn on the fly certain management skills, practice plans, etc.”
What attracted you to coach at Father Judge?
Johnson: “Coaching inner city sports has given me the ability to identify raw athletic talent and attitude and help shape them into the competitive levels of their prep and suburban counterparts. One of the things that I had to get kids to understand is that it does take time to become great at your craft. Some become frustrated when going against kids that have played lacrosse for YEARS. Therefore, building character and frustration tolerance is also a big part of my program.”
How has your experiences with LEAPS and the Public League help rep[are you to coach in the Catholic League against the likes of St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle?
Johnson: “EVERYTHING, that I have learned through L.E.A.P.S. and ‘The Pub” has prepared me for the task of competing against powerhouse programs such as La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep. Not taking anything away from any team’s success, a loss can happen on any given day in the world of lacrosse. In some cases, a team can be on top, then one missed or scooped ground ball or any other turnover can dictate the end of the game or the season. This is why I stress and practice the basics, teach frustration tolerance and work to build character.”
Do you have any other comments?
Johnson: “I would like to thank Father Judge Administration for giving me this opportunity, my ‘big brothers’ (John Christmas and Eric Gregg) and my Family for the support and love that they have given me. In addition, I thank the Father Judge Lacrosse team and parents for accepting me into their family.”
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