In Academic Games, coaching is one of the pillars of engagement and of interaction. Passion for learning new things and teaching are integral to reaching students and helping them to realize their potential.
Antonio “Tony” Johnson was a coach who was passionate about learning and teaching his students what they needed to be competitive and to attain all that Academic Games has to offer. The fire burned within him from the time that he started playing in elementary school and continued to smolder throughout his years as a coach at various schools in the Detroit area.
Tony passed away on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 at the age of 35.
Tony attended Vetal Elementary School in Detroit from kindergarten through eighth grade, but his life changed when he began competing in Academic Games as a fifth-grader. In seventh grade, Tony was part of an adventurous combo team at the state tournament that was selected to attend the national tournament at Rock Eagle, Georgia. Tony played with passion at Detroit Cass Tech from 1999-2003 and won several state and national championships with the National Academic Games Project. He majored in Mathematics at Michigan State University and during that time, he remained involved in coaching Academic Games at Cass Tech.
He began coaching as an assistant to his favorite teacher, Peggy Loop, and later helped coach students at Dixon Elementary School in Detroit with Deborah Sanders. Tony continued his coaching career helping dozens of students at several schools — most recently in Ecorse, Mich. He was an enthusiastic and energetic young coach who exuded his love of Academic Games and not just focusing on catapulting good players to become excellent players but also advocating for new players to learn the games and reach their potential.
Tony was highly respected among the Academic Games community, both by players and fellow coaches. One of his coaching contemporaries noted: “I will miss seeing him at tournaments and the connection he had with his kids. He clearly had a special love for AG and his students knew he was there for them no matter what. Real recognizes real. I know he took his role as a Black male educator seriously and knew it was important for kids that look like him to see adults that look like them in positions of authority. It’s truly a great loss to not only the AG community but also the educational community in Michigan.”
In addition to coaching, Tony became a leader on the local and national levels, serving as an Assistant Executive Director in Michigan and a Tournament Council representative for AGLOA in 2017. In his final year of playing at NAGP, he was selected one of the Outstanding Seniors and in 2017, he was named one of the national Outstanding Educators.
Tony’s light will continue to shine in Academic Games, through the students he has reached and the coaches he has inspired and provided an example to follow.