Quitman School District’s baseball program has already started to work hard under the guidance of its new head coach, Coach Eric Johnson.
Coach Johnson has a variety of experience and a strong passion for the game. Despite taking time away from coaching after experiencing personal losses, he still returned to help students learn to play the game he loves so dearly.
“This is my seventeenth year coaching baseball. I got my first coaching job back in 1999 at Lamar and stayed there until 2006. Then, I left from Lamar and had a chance to coach at Hilcrest Christian. I left from there when I had a chance to come back home to Lauderdale County and coached at Southeast Lauderdale from 2010-2012. I got out of coaching for a brief period and went into the private sector working for the City of Meridian,” recalled Coach Johnson. “I got back into coaching in 2018 at Columbia Academy and was head coach there. I got out of coaching again because I was dealing with a family issue after losing my wife last year and didn’t intend to start teaching or coaching again. I realized it was my passion and wanted to get back to doing something. I had a chance to go over to Raymond High School and made the commute every day. I had a chance to start doing what I’m passionate about again.”
He did well at Raymond High School, but he also has something else to take into consideration: his young son. Quitman offers him better opportunities that would be more beneficial for him and his son, and he is very excited to be able to join the Panthers as the new head coach.
“Then, I had a chance to come to Quitman, and it gave me a chance to get back home and be able to be with my little boy every night. I also wanted to put my little boy in a good situation and be able to spend time with him,” explained Johnson. “Quitman was the perfect opportunity for me. I was looking for somewhere that had great community support and high expectations for sports. This is where I felt like I needed to be after doing my research and looking in to the school. This is where I wanted me and my little boy to be, and we’re excited to be here.”
The school is excited to have Coach Johnson become a Quitman Panther as well. His history in coaching proves that he is highly qualified, and the team is already seeing positive results.
“As a player and coach, I’ve been part of four state championships at the public school and private school. I’ve had the chance to coach quite a few Division One players, All-American players, and a few are playing pro ball now. I really believe in pushing our kids to the limit to get the best we can out of our players,” expressed Johnson. “When I went to Columbia Academy, they had had a losing record the year before. We went in that next year and went 18 to 12, so we had a winning record. When I went to Raymond, they had only had one winning season in 12 years. I went in, and we had the first winning season in about 13 years. My last day there, they gave me the title of rebuilder. That’s what we’re going to do here in Quitman because there is no doubt in my mind that we can turn this program around. It isn’t going to be an overnight process. It’s going to be something that we have to work toward. Already this summer, we’re seeing the results because the kids are working so hard and have shown up countless hours to put the work in.”
Coach Johnson is excited about the progress he has already witnessed in the team. He maintains a positive attitude and can clearly see the potential they have. The boys can also see their coach’s enthusiasm and trust him to lead them. They are aware that he isn’t only teaching them strategies on the field. They know that he has confidence in them and is teaching them to have that same confidence and determination in themselves in everything they do. The parents and community are also able to see what the coach is doing and have done an amazing job providing him the support he needs.
“I’ve always said a successful coach is only successful by what he’s surrounded by. I’ve been surrounded by great players and coaches. As a coach, we always put our players in a position to be the best that they can be. I’ve always tried to instill in my players that wins and losses are very important, but the biggest win that we teach our kids every day is what we’re teaching them about everyday life. There has to be positive role models and great people in our community. The support we’ve had from the parents and our community has been overwhelming,” declared Johnson. “I’m a player’s coach. I’m always going to believe in our kids. We have to make sure we’re staying positive and making sure our kids believe they can be successful. The first thing I’m doing with the kids is teaching them to believe in themselves and that they can win. The biggest thing they have to learn is how to compete because you have to compete in everyday life.”
With the positive outlook and plan that Coach Johnson has outlined for his team, the Quitman Panthers are sure to play to the best of their abilities and have a strong season. The community will be able to continue to support the team and watch them grow even more under their new leadership.