In his 15 years at Mount Pisgah, Coach John O’Connor has coached Patriot teams from Lower School all the way through to seniors. He serves as Mount Pisgah’s Lower School Physical Education instructor as well as a Varsity Football Coach, Varsity Baseball coach and 3rd/4th Grade Rookie Tackle Coordinator. Coach O'Connor also was awarded the MPCS Faculty and Staff Servant Leadership award in January.
Why do I teach and coach? For the record, I don’t consider myself a teacher and a coach. They are one in the same to me. Teachers coach and coaches teach. Back to why…I’ve asked myself that many times. The simple answer is I love helping kids. Period. My passion is sports, so helping kids learn to be active and develop physical and emotional skills through athletic activities is my purpose. As it says in my favorite song (Buy Dirt by Jordan Davis), “Do what you love and call it work.”
Now, a little deeper question; why do I love helping kids? When I was 4.5 years old I was diagnosed with Legg-Perthes disease. Basically it’s a softening of the hip socket which causes a limp. The treatment was to be in a double leg brace from the waist down and no walking or standing for two years. That’s a lifetime to someone (and a family I’m sure) who loves playing sports. At the time, I had two older sisters and a younger brother. My parents were told to put me in a rehabilitation center for the two years. My mom declined that option, but probably not as nicely as I just made that sound. She was born in Manhattan and was a typical direct New Yorker. She carried me everywhere for those two years and when she couldn’t carry me, my dad McGyvered a mechanic’s creeper that they use to work under cars for me to lay on. My parents were told by the doctors that I wouldn’t be able to run or play sports. My parents didn’t tell me that. I had my family and coaches that helped me get to the point where I could live a completely normal life and was able to participate in the sports I loved. Yeah, that’s probably a big reason why I love helping kids be active.
Helping the students at Mount Pisgah Christian school is easy. The kids are incredible. My days include laughing with Junior Kindergartners to coaching Seniors at The PAC. Being able to do that all in one school is a blessing. Friday Night Lights on Savior Field are great and so are Varsity baseball games, but seeing all the students in the Lower School twice a week might be better. Not only do I get to do what I love, but I can help the students grow physically, emotionally and spiritually, too.
My favorite teaching/coaching verse is 2 Timothy 1:7 — “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self discipline.” The last part is something I thought I was very good at…but in reality I was just good at talking about it to my students. What I wasn’t good at was holding myself to those standards. I let my weight get out of control. So, almost three years ago now, I decided I had to not only talk about self discipline to my students, I had to show them that I lived it. It took a year, but I lost a lot of weight. It’s made me a better teacher/coach because I live those words now.
My teaching/coaching philosophy developed from personal experience, but also from a model called 3 Dimensional (3D) Coaching. The first dimension is the physical part of the sport, or the fundamentals. This is the most basic part that most coaches are capable of and for the most part good at. Twenty years ago, that was what was expected of coaches and players had to adapt to the coach. In 2022, that’s not good enough anymore. Coaches have to reach their student athletes where they are.
The next dimension is teaching/coaching the psychology of the sport. Developing the mind, and the body/mind dualism, of the student/athlete is just as important to the individual as the fundamentals of the sport. But even that is not enough in today’s world.
There is a third dimension that is needed as a coach to fully develop our student-athletes — the heart. Body, Mind and Spirit development is what differentiates coaches that coach to win for the four years the student-athlete is in high school from the coach that coaches for the forty year development of the student-athlete. And that coaching doesn’t stop when the student graduates. I text over 100 former players each holiday. Not because I have to, but because I love them and want to keep coaching them. All of that is part of how I coach…and how we coach at Mount Pisgah.
Five years ago, my Mom passed away from cancer. When my children were small, she gave me an inspirational framed picture. It’s been on my dresser since she gave it to me. It’s one of those things that you know is there, but never really look at. I make a point to look at it more often now. In part, it reads: At the end of your life, it won’t matter what kind of car you drove, or what kind of house you lived in or how big your bank account was, but it will matter that you were important in the life of a child. I try to do that every day. I hope she knows that.