John “JJ” Johnson has been committed to volunteering to help children through little league sports and education for twenty-five years. His volunteer efforts have been in numerous capacities; from coaching in grassroots voluntary community programs to volunteering his time in high-level administrative capacities for non-profit community based programs. Mr. Johnson was responsible for single handedly starting the Southeast Michigan Pop Warner Football League (SEMPWFL) in 1997. At that time, he had a dream of building quality and competitive little league football & cheer programs under the banner of Pop Warner Little Scholars.
Mr. Johnson’s volunteer history began when he organized a little league baseball program in 1980. He later transitioned to become a voluntary little league football coach from 1987. In 1997, he saw an opportunity for the organization to grow and become part of something much larger and nationally recognized that placed emphasis on education and scholastics. As a result, he established a chapter of the National Pop Warner organization in the southeast Michigan area now known as Southeast Michigan Pop Warner Little League Football (SEMPWFL) and Mr. Johnson has served as President of SEMPWFL since its inception.
The SEMPWFL is made up of nine non-profit associations that are based throughout the Metropolitan Detroit area. For the 2004 season, the associations’ total 968 boys and girls. In addition to his role as League President of SEMPWFL, in 1999, John was appointed as the Mid-America Regional Pop Warner Vice President and two years later in 2001, he was offered the voluntary position of Mid-America Pop Warner Regional Director. In his dual role as Regional Director and SEMPWFL president, Mr. Johnson is responsible for the management and oversight of the entire Mid-America Pop Warner Region, which is one of the largest Pop Warner regions within the country. The Mid-America Region is made up of eleven Midwestern states. Counting the number of leagues and non-profit associations in the Mid-America Region, it is safe to say the Mid-America Pop Warner Region totals more than 15,000 youth; 1,500 volunteer coaches and more than 8,000 adult volunteers who all make it possible. Mr. Johnson is responsible for making certain that every coach and volunteer as well as his league (SEMPWFL) adheres to the Pop Warner principles. The driving force behind this remarkable man is his life long dream to provide the youth of Southeast Michigan with an enriching little league experience that does more than just teach sportsmanship and team play, but also recognizes and encourages youth to excel academically.
As a result of Mr. Johnson’s heavy emphasis on academics there has been significant increase in the overall grade point averages for children participating in SEMPWFL. Mr. Johnson has contributed to improving the life of others in the community through the league by developing and presenting positive coaching training modules for little league coaches. The trainings teach coaches how to positively motivate children and teach them that playing the game or cheering is not all about winning. The result of his passion for academics led to two of the league’s youngsters being recognized as scholastic first teamers and eight youngsters as second teamers within three years at the National Pop Warner level.
Mr. Johnson has left life-long impressions. Mr. Johnson continues to be the backbone of SEMPWFL. From my perspective, the challenge he’s faced on the local level (SEMPWFL) has been recruiting, training and retaining adult volunteers who possess the qualities and background that would make them excellent coaches. As a Regional Pop Warner Director, it has been a challenge for him to travel hundreds of miles to resolve issues within other states and at the same time to try to stay healthy, maintain a household, hold down a full-time job, and get some quality time to spend with grandchildren. Mr. Johnson’s volunteerism takes up as much as 35 to 40 hours each week. This means balancing much of his personal life around SEMPWFL and Mid-America Regional Director activities. This man has had a tremendous impact on my life. He has shown me by example how to manage volunteers, how to motivate people, and how to achieve big goals with only the desire to make it better for our youth. In my opinion, Mr. Johnson is the ultimate volunteer who has been on the front line for a very long time. Ever since I have known him, little league football and cheer has been Mr. Johnson’s passion.