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Finding Purpose through Coaching: For the Love of the Team
By: Amanda Kriescher
If you have ever played sports, you know how vital the coach’s role is. They are there to train you, to teach you, and to cheer you on. But, sometimes, there are those coaches that go above and beyond just training a player on the field, they also help guide their players off the field. The Green Bay Glory has been blessed to have a coach just like that for its players. A coach that not only helps his players be the best on the field but off the field as well. Chad Johnson, the coach of the Green Bay Glory, has been around soccer for most of his life. From learning to play soccer as a kid to having coaching records for men’s and women’s soccer teams, it seems he was meant for this. Just listening to the passion in his voice, you can instantly tell that for him being a coach, is as he says, “not just about the win,” but all about the team.
Growing up in Lakewood, Colorado, Chad learned the love of soccer from his older brother and neighbors from Italy as they played soccer in the backyard. Between the ages of 14-15 he had already been to Mexico and parts of Europe on a traveling soccer team. His soccer career accomplishments include winning at championship levels in both high school and college. But in his last year playing soccer while attending the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (herein UWGB), he suffered a career ending injury breaking the tib fib on his left leg. But this would not stop him from being around the game he loved. This began the start of his illustrious coaching career.
Chad’s coaching career has been one filled with amazing accomplishments. After the injury that ended his playing days, he became the assistant coach for the UWGB’s women’s soccer team, all while finishing his degree. He did this for three years. While coaching at UWGB, he accomplished the school’s best record of 13-4-2, which still stands to this day. He also was the head coach for the women’s soccer team at St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisconsin) for three years and the head of their men’s soccer team for four years. He has been named as coach of the year in both men’s and women’s soccer.
When he was approached about the position for coaching the new women’s soccer team in Green Bay, the Green Bay Glory, he discovered at his meeting with Kerry Geocaris they had much in common: passion for the game, playing injuries, and a desire to shape women’s roles in soccer. It was an “easy yes” for him. But coaching the Green Bay Glory would not be the same coaching role he had seen in the past. This would become a new era of coaching for him. It is evident when he talks about it, that it is truly special and unique.
Chad is known for a lot of things when it comes to soccer, but he is also known for a motto/quote he embodies, “You don’t get it until you are in it.” This is all about the Green Bay Glory, which he says is not your typical soccer team and the critics don’t quite understand it yet, but they will. To him, it is not just about the wins and losses, it is truly about empowering women, developing their confidence, helping them acquire skills both on and off the field, and leading them to be productive members of society. It is his role to help them transition through the struggles they may be having in life. It is “not just coaching.”
Chad cares deeply for his players by giving them experiences they may not otherwise get. He even had a player “arrested” who expressed interest in working in criminal justice. Caitlin Hawley got to experience this and even shadowed with the De Pere police. To him, it’s about taking “the extra steps” and going “the extra mile.”
When asked about Coach Johnson, Caitlin Hawley said "A good coach can change a game, but a great coach can change a life. Coach Johnson brings positivity to every training session. When we get to practice he always tells us to leave whatever is bothering us at the “door” and to let practice be our escape. He has my best interest at heart and helps make me a better player and person."
When his coaching season started, his goal was simply to learn the player’s names and positions, with 28 players on the team. The challenge for him was getting to know them beyond their position, which was important to him. He focused on getting to know a player’s “synergy” and “what makes them tick.” But beyond this, it was about team building and becoming a soccer family. In fact, Glory does a lot of community service and Chad encourages the players to participate. One of his favorites was when players visited holocaust survivor Henry Golde before he passed away on his 100th birthday. Golde was a goalkeeper in his childhood and the Glory players brought him a custom Glory jersey.
Chad has a lot of respect for his players and wanted to make sure they were heard and recognized whether they dressed or not. He spent a lot of time talking to players not only about soccer but about life. He was available after practices, on the bus, and had many phone calls. All of his time and effort didn't go unnoticed and definitely left an impact on his players. Lauren Krcma said, "Coach Chad is hands down one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He became a trustworthy coach from the start. Chads dad jokes really never get old. His sense of humor, caring personality and determination makes him stand out from other coaches. He cares about his players ability to play soccer but he cared about his players lives, dreams and goals off the field just as much.
Chad sat down next to me on a bus ride home after a game that I travelled too but did not get any playing time. He talked to me about how important I am to the team as not only a player but a leader, friend, and teammate and how my playing time was not because my lack of skill and heart. I never appreciated anything more. I was not forgotten about! I still mattered. As a player you want your coach to be confident in you and Chad makes sure all of his players know that he is always confident in them as not only soccer players but people."
Alyssa Barnes agrees. "It is clear to me how great of a coach, father, and overall person he is. He is very caring and passionate, always wanting the best for others. I appreciate his kind words as well as all the advice he had to give me not only for soccer but for life in general. It took one Glory season for him to have an impact on my soccer career and life. I’m very grateful for Coach Chad!"
With the Glory, it’s not always about winning. Sure, wins are nice and hoped for, but at the end of the day, he never felt the management of the team held winning over his head. He felt tremendous support from them allowing him to do what he does best. In fact, winning is not the top priority of the Glory. First comes trust, second building family/foundation and then winning. To him, coaches need to earn the player’s respect, NOT demand it. It is easy to see in him, both a love for the game and respect for the players he not only coaches but mentors.
Lastly, Chad has this advice to pass on to other coaches. To instill in players, that they should not put winning first even at the level he coaches at, but to help develop a high level of confidence in players. A lot can be said about a team’s ability to increase performance when players are happy. It is not always about how good you are, but in fact, a sign of a good player to him is how they make those around them better.
It was my pleasure to interview Chad Johnson for this piece. I can see why he has been so successful in his coaching career. Playing some sports growing up myself, I see in him the same qualities of some of the amazing coaches I had, who truly want the best for their players. Coach Johnson embodies all of that and more. Much luck and success to him and the Glory in their second season.