Highly regarded within the Stillwater Area Hockey Association for his work with three different teams, Lake Elmo’s Jay Johnson has been honored by some outside groups in the past few weeks as well.
Johnson was named a recipient of the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coach Award — one of just 20 winners nation-wide and the only one from Minnesota —— for his positive impact on youth athletes. The award, presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance, includes a $250 prize and trophy.
“I was very humbled, but also very excited to hear about it,” Johnson said. “When you look at the Positive Coaching Alliance and what it stands for, it’s just exciting to see that hard work and the work of so many in the association and what we’re trying to do with the players. It’s very exciting, but at the same time humbling because there are a lot of people who do a lot of great things and also very cool because of the fact that it was a parent from my team who submitted the nomination. As a parent of any athlete, you wish they have a good experience and when parents recognize that, it really helps you feel like you’re doing the right things.”
The Positive Coaching Alliance (PAC) provides books, conducting workshops and on-line courses for youth and high school coaches, parents and student-athletes.
“Jay helps youth athletes win on and off the ice,” said Jim Thompson, who is the founder and CEO of PCA. “By creating a positive, character-building youth sports experience, and serving as a Double-Goal Coach, Jay helps youth develop into better athletes and better people.”
Since this honor was presented in March, the Minnesota Wild asked him to make the “Let’s Play Hockey” call prior to their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 13.
“Before they even finished asking, I said ‘absolutely.’ That was a pretty cool honor,” Johnson said. “I was a little nervous, but very excited and humbled as well. It was great. They brought me in and gave me a jersey and a couple of tickets, it was really cool.”
It was a nice reward for his efforts while assisting with daughter’s U10 team and son’s squirt team — while also serving as head coach of his oldest son’s peewee team.
“With three kids in hockey, it’s very rewarding,” said Johnson, who grew up and played hockey in Cloquet before playing one year at the Air Force Academy. “My overall philosophy is that it’s a coach’s job to provide a positive experience. My philosophy matches this award. There’s two goals as a coach and that’s creating the best team and best individuals. Success on the ice is very important, but at the same time you can use the game to teach a lot of life lessons such as respect for teammates, parents, fans and officials — across the board. The second is just that hard work and dedication and what that can mean on and off the ice, such as supporting your teammates and representing your community.”
Winning is important, Johnson suggested, but he does not sacrifice anyone’s playing time for short-term gains at the potential expense of developing those players.
“I personally believe in fair play,” Johnson said. “I don’t shorten my bench and always play all my kids. I don’t sit kids to make sure we can try and win games. I believe you take them as a team and play as a team and that’s part of the life lessons as well.”
Johnson said he is also proud of the work taking place in the Stillwater hockey association and is confident it will result in success at the higher levels as well.
“I’m trying to find ways to focus and communicate more and spread the word about this Positive Coaching Alliance and that’s not a hockey-specific thing,” Johnson said. “The focus is on any youth sport at any level. There are coaches out there for any sport and there’s some expectations for how they should coach and I hope they understand that the approach a coach takes can have a tremendous impact both positive and negative, with the ultimate goal of creating better athletes and goals. I hope they utilize the resources that are out there and I think it makes a difference.”