Sue Johnson, the new athletic director at Concord Academy, spent 20 years as a Division I college basketball coach. She loved her career but found that women’s college athletics was changing dramatically. “In many ways,” she said, “a win-at-all-costs mentality began to dominate.” That’s not what she wanted.
‘I went into coaching because I loved teaching.’ – Sue Johnson“I went into coaching because I loved teaching,” Johnson said. “But midway through my tenure as the head coach of women’s basketball at the University of New Hampshire, I felt more like the CEO of a small company than an educator.”
Additionally, on a personal level, Johnson wanted to have more time to spend at home with her family. “I was traveling all the time and when not traveling, I was home on the phone with recruits or reviewing game film,” Johnson said.
When Johnson added it all together she decided a new career was in order.
Johnson, a cum laude graduate of Yale and recipient of a master’s from Rider University, was selected as the athletic director at Gann Academy in 2007, a 300-student Jewish high school in Waltham, Mass., where she spent eight years building the school’s athletic program. She also became increasingly involved with diversity and inclusion work at the school, co-advising the Gann Gay straight Alliance for three years and co-founding the Gann Inclusivity Committee.
Once again, however, the desire for a new challenge began to grow, and Johnson started to think about finding a new school.
Like Gann, CA’s “focus on a values-driven and balanced high school education” was appealing. In addition, she liked how athletics fit into the overall educational mission of the school. “I wanted to be at a school where athletics were important, but in proper perspective, and seen as intrinsic to the overall educational experience of the students,” Johnson said.
Johnson began work at CA in early July and quickly immersed herself in a “summer of listening and learning” to best understand how she could help the CA athletic program continue to inspire students to pursue an active lifestyle, learn sport-specific skills, and foster values such as dedication to team, accountability, and respect for others.
As director of athletics, Johnson has inherited a strong program. CA teams have been enjoying successful seasons at the Moriarty Athletic Campus and on the courts and trails around the main campus.
The CA athletics department includes five administrators and 55 seasonal coaches who oversee 16 sports including cross-country, field hockey, golf, soccer, volleyball, Alpine skiing, basketball, squash, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse, sailing, softball, tennis, track and field, and Ultimate Frisbee, as well as many physical education and intramural offerings. Johnson is also the president of the District III board of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council and serves on the NEPSAC executive board of athletic directors. Recently, Johnson hired Laurie Baker, a two-time Olympic medalist, as assistant athletic director at CA.
Johnson expects she will need some time to identify the areas where the CA athletic program can grow. She is certain, though, that she will “focus on supporting a culture in which the athletic department takes a lot of pride in what we do and works to teach values and life skills through sport,” Johnson said.
“I am excited about leading the athletic department of such an outstanding New England independent school,” Johnson said. “And I look forward to providing programming that is consistent with the educational mission and culture of Concord Academy.”
Jenny Chandler, dean of faculty, described Johnson as “a seasoned and visionary AD” who emerged from a remarkably strong and experienced pool of candidates. “Her background as an accomplished athlete, coach, and athletic director positions her to build on the strengths of CA athletics and to partner with all constituencies to develop and initiate a strategic vision for the school’s program,” Chandler said.
Meet Laurie Baker
Two-time Olympic ice-hockey medalist Laurie Baker is new to CA’s campus but no stranger to the area. Growing up in West Concord, Baker began her career on the ice on figure skates but soon switched to hockey after spending hours watching her older brother in the rink. Medaling at the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998 and Salt Lake City in 2002 taught her how “the power and strength of each individual team member plays an important role in a group.” As the assistant athletic director at CA, she’s glad to be part of a community that encourages students to pursue all facets of campus life. She hopes to create an atmosphere at all team levels that’s “competitive but fun.”