By Jonathan Pleasant
Mr. Jim Crowder is a familiar face in Johnson County, having had a long time presence in the county school system. Crowder has been CTE director since 2006, assistant principal at JCHS since 2000, a position he took after leaving the top administrative position in the middle school, and prior to that change in the mid 90s held positions teaching math, science, and physical education. Yet, this distinguished academic career aside Crowder is likely best known for his athletic legacy, having coached football for many years, including at the college level, and is now serving his second era as Johnson County High Schools Athletic Director.
Recognizing his past and ongoing efforts, the Tennessee Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (TIAAA) recently awarded Crowder with one of their highest honors, naming him Athletic Director of the Year at the associations annual conference in Murfreesboro. Ever humble, Crowder still seemed very appreciative of the nomination. It was very nice and I enjoyed it, Crowder said. I always feel like probably somebody else deserves it more than I do, but I was honored to get the award. I hope I have been able to have a positive impact on some of the young people here by being involved in athletics. When you start looking back thats what makes it worthwhile, to think that maybe you have been able to influence somebody. Thats one of the most enjoyable parts of it, the people you get to work with over the years.
Crowder began his career back in 1975 when he graduated from East Tennessee State University and began teaching and coaching at David Crocket High School in Washington County. Initially serving as an assistant football and baseball coach, it only took one year for Crowder to become head coach before moving onto a second assistant position at Morristown East in 1977. From there Crowder took a surprising turn and went into college ball, eventually working as football defensive coordinator and assistant track coach at Lees-McRae from 1980 to 1984.
That year, after nearly a decade of trying his hand in different schools, Crowder finally got the chance to return home, serving as JCHS head football coach until he took over as principal of the middle school ten years later in 1994. When I came in, I came in as head football coach and athletic director kind of just came with it, Crowder reflected. Its home and I think I always had that goal as a coach, to come back here. In the back of my mind I always wanted to come back home and work with kids here. The reason I got into coaching to begin with was that I thought it was an awesome thing to be able to have an impact on young people. I guess I saw that in the coaches that I had, and thats what I wanted to do. I felt like after the coaches I had in high school and college, you couldnt have a better opportunity to impact young people and help them. I wanted to coach football because I felt like I would have more of an opportunity to have that impact even though baseball is probably my favorite sport. I just thought football would give me a better chance.
Officially Crowder began his second run as athletic director in 2000 when he came back to the high school as assistant principal. In that regard he has always tried to be a helping hand for the schools various programs and has become a figurehead of sorts for Johnson County both in the TSSAA and the TIAAA. I just try to help the coaches with whatever they need, Crowder said. Most of our coaches do a good job running their programs and I just try to help them and watch out for them as much as I can. Its a hard job coaching and I try anything I can do to help them. I do all of the eligibility, scheduling, everything that has to go into the state office. I take care of all of that.
After more than 30 years as a teacher, principal and coach, Crowder is now getting ready for the next phase of his life, retirement. Certainly he has made a lasting legacy for himself in the county but to Crowder the most important outcome seems to be the many lasting friendships over the years.
Its amazing how fast it goes by, Crowder concluded. Ive really been fortunate to have a good career, to have had the opportunity to work with a lot of really good people. A lot of the people that I coached years ago are getting older now, but thats probably one of the best things about it, to see what has happened to the people Ive been able to coach and work with, to see what they have accomplished. Its pretty worthwhile.
By Jonathan Pleasant