Adam Johnson built his reputation as volleyball player both indoors and on the beach, where he partnered for four seasons with Karch Kiraly. These days, you’ll find him coaching in Austin, Texas. The former USC star, who represented the United States indoors and in the 2000 Olympics on the beach, is not short on opinions.
His girls program is called Adam Johnson Volleyball Club but you can also keep up with the 1986 NCAA Player of the Year at adamjohnsonvolleyball.com or austinvolleyballacademy.com.
Volleyball’s Lee Feinswog caught up with Johnson at the 41st AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships inside Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.
VBM: So you have a volleyball club named after yourself. How did that evolve?
AJ: It’s an ego-driven club. I’ve got to keep my name out there (laughs). No, I came into Austin eight years ago in August and my name still has some followers but my demographic is getting older as I speak. It’s to keep it out there and show that hey, this is a program where the director is actually somebody who has been there, done that at all levels, from junior to high school to college to international.
VBM: You turn 50 in January but you look great. You still play?
AJ: I don’t play a lot. On the beach side, if I’ve got some buddies who are B players I’ll go play around with them. I don’t like to compete now, I just like to have fun. And there are a bunch of guys in town who just want to beat up on an old man like me.
But I do play one-on-six against all my club teams. Right before we got here [to Orlando] my 14s wanted to take me on. That was an easy game. My 15s were a little bit full of themselves so I had to shut them down real fast. My 17s had nothing.
VBM: Girls club volleyball has to be a whole different deal for you. How do you approach it?
AJ: I’ve got a lot of experience and what I really enjoy is to see somebody at age 12 and then see them at 16 or 17 and see where they’ve come. I have the gamut of people who are phenomenal athletes from age 12 on up to someone who can barely walk who is now a good athlete at age 16.
VBM: You are not a fan of all the rules changes, are you? Indoor and outdoors.
AJ: Don’t get me started.
VBM: Oh, we want to. What would you prefer?
AJ: It’s easy for me to say, but in my opinion all the rules changes help people who are not real good athletes. You don’t have to make spectacular plays.
VBM: First ball double contact, for example?
AJ: That was the first thing that got ugly . . . To see that we have no control over our bodies, that part of being athletic, where you can fly all over the net, now you can go under the net, people are getting hurt. I just grew up in a different era, that’s all. There are always going to be changes and debates.
From the beach side of things, I’m sorry to see that the court shrank so much for the guys because now that’s a boring game to watch. I watch the women now for multiple reasons (laughs) but now they can’t play like we used to on a big court.
VBM: What lies ahead for your club?
AJ: We have seven teams this year. We fluctuate. We’ve had 13 and hopefully we’ll be back up nine or 10. But I’ve got a sand program—have to call it sand, not beach—in Austin, too. We’ve got about 50 kids in that program and that’s starting to take off.
This is what I do and what I’m going to be doing. I’ve been approached by some programs to maybe coach in college either indoors or outdoors and I’ve got to see where that might take me.
VBM: OK, it’s a Volleyball magazine Q&A tradition. What’s your favorite restaurant in Austin?
AJ: I’ve got to go with Salt Lick Barbecue.