Girls' Soccer Coach of Year: STM's James Johnson

Why: The 14-6-1 Sabers posted 11 shutouts and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Class 1A, the first time the school advanced to the sectional championship match.

Season evaluation: “This season was special because of the people I was blessed to interact with. I had two great assistant coaches, Benoit Collard and Micaela McLennand, who were a tremendous help. We wouldn’t have had this success if not for them. But more importantly, I am thankful to this group of girls who were willing to buy into my coaching philosophy of work ethic, fitness and the importance of team defense. We set the bar high this year, and the girls surpassed even my own lofty expectations for them. Seeing the joy on their faces after winning the sectional game in penalty kicks would make all the hard work worth it to any coach. That’s the reason I coach, and it was personally rewarding for me to see the girls’ satisfaction that day. The girls said at the start of the year they wanted to ‘leave the program better than they found it,’ and they have certainly done that, winning consecutive regional titles and having the best season in school history (15 wins in 2012). I will miss this year’s team, but I have many memories from the season, and next year’s team knows the bar will be even higher with the foundation of success now in place for STM soccer.” — Johnson
A few of my favorite things: Former Peoria Notre Dame high school teammate and Bradley University soccer player Danny Dahlquist ... All my soccer teams at STM ... my recent upgrade to a 2007 Honda Civic ... Soccer Country ... “The Office” ... “Gladiator” ... Buffalo Wild Wings ... Mowing yards ... Would like to visit Old Trafford in England (Manchester United home field).

Three things on my bucket list: Attend English Premier League soccer match or World Cup match, get married and have a family, and win a state championship at STM.

About Coach Johnson: “I have been blessed to have had many amazing coaches in my life, but what makes Coach Johnson stand out the most from all of the other coaches is his humongous heart. He loves soccer and cares for his players more than any coach I have ever known. His face practically lights up when he talks about soccer, and he is one of those people whose passion is contagious to everyone around him. You can’t help but get pumped for a game when you see how excited he is and how much he believes in each and every one of his players. He has worked tirelessly to transform the St. Thomas More soccer program and he has succeeded, but it was never for himself. He doesn’t care about the glory or the credit. He just wants his players to be able to enjoy the game as much as he does and know what it’s like to come together as a team, work hard, be successful and create memories that will last a lifetime.” — STM senior Jade Brinkoetter

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