High School Sports

Johnson changes mind, returns to coach Capital football

Capital High School’s new football coach is its old one: J.D. Johnson.

Admitting he made a mistake, Johnson rescinded his month-long resignation Wednesday and will return to coach the Cougars, where he’s spent the past eight seasons.

Johnson, also a social studies teacher at Capital, resigned from coaching March 27, telling The Olympian his priorities were shifting toward his family, including much-needed time spent with daughter, Savannah, a Black Hills High School junior, and special-needs son, Hayden.

But Johnson said Wednesday he began second-guessing his decision after returning from spring break. The effects of the resignation also were visible in the high school’s hallways.

“The presence in the school didn’t feel the same,” Johnson said, adding he felt out of place after resigning. “It opened my eyes up to how much it goes beyond football in the school and in the community.”

Capital principal Chris Woods saw how torn Johnson was — “there were tears about the decision,” he said — and told Johnson the door wasn’t closed on returning.

The school hadn’t filled Johnson’s vacancy; Woods said only a handful of applications came through because of few open teaching positions. The listing was removed April 20 from Educational Services District 113 and Washington Interscholastic Activities Association websites.

While the school accepted Johnson’s resignation last month, the Olympia School Board hadn’t formally approved it. In this such instances when the school board has yet to approve a resignation, district spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said an individual can send a letter to rescind a resignation, as Johnson did Wednesday afternoon, and “it’s up to management to decide whether or not to bring them back.”

That decision was Woods’ on Wednesday after a meeting with the majority of Capital’s football players, who voiced their approval for Johnson’s return. Woods also met with Johnson and his family.

“If they weren’t on board with it,” Woods said, “then I wasn’t going to move forward.”

Johnson admitted to struggles finding an equal balance between family and coaching, and now will rely on his coaching staff and other support systems to hold him accountable.

“When the lights go out, I go home,” he said.

Johnson said he’s “all-in” in his committed to the players, staff, and a program that’s been to three state semifinal appearances during his eight years.

As for his decision to return, it came down to one question: why coach football? It’s not only influencing young men, but also being an influential figure of a school and a community, Johnson said.

“Sports teams are a big part of the good in our school and communities, and I want to continue to be a part of the influence they play on young lives,” he said.