John Arntson, who coaches baseball for Clackamas High School, has won Positive Coaching Alliance’s coveted Double-Goal Coach Award presented by TeamSnap for his positive impact on youth athletes.
Arntson is one of 50 national recipients of the Double-Goal Coach award, named for coaches who strive to win while also pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports. The award includes a $200 prize, a certificate, and mention within the websites and newsletters of PCA, a national non-profit developing Better Athletes, Better People through youth and high school sports.
Arntson is one of just four from among the 50 award winners who took the stage at PCA’s National Youth Sports Awards Dinner and Auction Sponsored by Deloitte for a panel discussion on coaching led by FOX Sports’ Molly McGrath. Arntson and his wife enjoyed an all-expenses-paid trip to Palo Alto, Calif. for the April 16 event.
“John helps his players win on and off the field,” said Ben Dudley, Executive Director of PCA-Portland, the local Chapter of Positive Coaching Alliance. “By creating a positive, character-building youth sports experience and serving as a Double-Goal Coach, John helps youth develop into better athletes and better people.”
Arntson has led Clackamas to two state titles, but, he said, “For me, the priority is teaching kids life lessons, teaching them about good character, teaching them to do the right things and be good people. We’re teaching them to be accountable, to show up on time and give their best effort. If you teach them those things and how to battle through adversity, the winning will take care of itself.
“Very few kids are going to be professional baseball players, but they’re going to be doctors and accountants and whatever else, and these are skills they’re going to need in their jobs and more importantly when they become fathers. I tell them if they’re late for practice, I’m not mad just to be mean, but it’s because if you keep showing up late to your job, you’re going to get fired. If you’re having a tough time with a slump, you have to put in extra work. Just like if you’re having a tough time in your marriage, you go to counseling and put in extra work, not just give up on your wife.”
Key to his ability to convey such life lessons is a personal relationship with each player, where he demonstrates caring about their academic and family lives and opens enough to each player to build their trust. “That way the kids want to play for you,” Arntson said. “They know it’s not about me, it’s about this team. I’ve told them if they’re ever in trouble at three o’clock in the morning, hopefully they call their parents, but if their parents aren’t there, then I want to be that phone call.”
Arntson recalled a specific player who entered the program as a “prima donna.” The coach was tough on him, but as the relationship evolved, Arntson realized, “this was a kid that just wants to be loved and wants it to be shown.”
Arntson also emphasized to the player how good he could be if he worked more at baseball. “He just needed someone to believe in him, and he ended up believing in himself and playing in college.” When Arntson lost his 7-year-old son three years ago in an auto accident, that player returned to help his former coach through the grieving process.
“He stood up at the celebration of life for my son, and told me that I was like a second dad to him. That meant a lot to me that he would get up in front of thousands of people and make that comment. I thought back to how he was as that freshman prima donna, and now here he was expressing his love for everyone else.”
Arntson considered not coaching the season after his son’s passing, but his wife and daughter persuaded him, and he realized, “I’d preached to the kids about fighting through adversity, and now here I was facing the greatest adversity anyone can face, and I needed to get up, keep breathing, keep putting one foot in front of the other and showing my guys that this is what you do. I wasn’t scared to let them see me cry, to see that I needed them. That’s life. Sometimes you need to lean on people. I don’t know if I make it through that whole thing without that group of kids.”
The depth of Coach Arntson’s emotion and connection with his players demonstrates the role coaches can play in the development of youth, Dudley said. “Our Chapter’s employees, board and supporters are thrilled that Coach Arntson is getting national recognition for his work at Clackamas High School. Having John as an award-winning Double-Goal Coach in our community provides an example for other coaches to emulate, so thousands more youth and high school athletes in our area can benefit from a positive, character-building sports experience.”