DAPHNE, Ala. – United States Sports Academy alumnus and Madison Plains (Ohio) High School boys basketball coach Joe Stewart was recently recognized by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association (OHSBCA) for collecting his 300th career victory.
Stewart is known in Ohio as one of the state’s foremost boys basketball program rebuilders, having taken five separate programs from “worst to first” in their respective conferences. He was inducted into the OHSBCA District 14 Hall of Fame in 2014.
Stewart, who lives in Leesburg, Ohio, earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports coaching from the Academy in 1991. Named the head coach at Madison Plains High School in London, Ohio, two years ago, he led the Golden Eagles to a 13-9 record this season, the school’s first winning season in any boys sport in seven years.
“I began a career in coaching and education in the hope of making a difference in the lives of young people,” Stewart said. “One of the ways I wanted to set myself apart was by investing in my education at the United States Sports Academy.
“I learned so much at the Academy about the many and varied roles a coach must master: the need to stay on the cutting edge by seeking true research for answers rather than hunches or gut feelings, multiple forms of pedagogy to teach individual and team skills, and to anticipate and embrace change to give your team and athletes this best possible chance to succeed and have that experience carryover into life after their graduation.
“I have lived a blessed life as a coach and the Academy, its unique program, and the people I encountered there have been one of the catalysts for that.
“I highly recommend the Academy and its programs for anyone truly serious about reaching their potential in any sports industry.
“My entire coaching career has been spent taking rebuilding projects in terms of boys basketball programs,” Stewart said.
“Madison Plains was certainly in that category as I was their fourth coach in four years. However, I knew the community, and also knew and trusted the administration who wanted desperately for boys basketball to be a positive source of learning for the players and pride for the community.
“My philosophy has always been ‘Good people, doing things right, makes success just a matter of time,’ and we have seen this played out over two years’ time. Our first team won only three games, but they put forth a winning effort each day giving us a great foundation for this year, a 10 game improvement that was the high water mark for our district in Ohio.
“My Academy education in coaching taught me that ‘flow was the goal’ athletically, and that can be found only through concerted effort and repetition. It was rewarding seeing our guys achieve that, and also how it was appreciated in our school and community.”
Stewart said he is honored to be part of the Hall of Fame, but he was even more proud of the relationships he has built with players and communities throughout his career. He said he is also proud of his association with Athletes in Action – an international Christian sports ministry based in Xenia, Ohio.
“In terms of what I consider my greatest accomplishment, I consider that to be the relationships I have with my players, past and present, and the act of staying on the cutting edge tactically and in communicating with young people representing different generations playing a changing game and a changing athletic culture,” he said.
“Teaching life skills and values through sports does not go out of style and it is also cross cultural. Through my association with Athletes In Action, to be able to share my faith and coaching principles with coaches in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and perhaps Togo this summer, brings a great deal of satisfaction to me.
“However, seeing the leaders, workers, husbands, fathers, and friends that my former players have become is my greatest satisfaction. The accomplishment is theirs; the joy from seeing it is mine.”
He was inspired to pursue his coaching career while in college in the 1970s after he heard two-time NBA Coach of the Year Hubie Brown speak.
“I remember going to a coaches clinics in the late 1970’s and hearing the great Hubie Brown make the statement, ‘The notoriety of a coach is determined by his players’ ability to execute under pressure.’
“The blessing of being able to enjoy longevity in coaching, to pass the 300 win mark, brings those words back into focus and has allowed me the opportunity to reach out to all my past players and assistant coaches in appreciation because such an award was their doing, not mine. The award was in recognition of 300 wins, but more precious to me are the 3,000 memories my players and teams have stirred in me.”