Q: How did you begin working in athletics, and what led you to Johnson University?
A: I spent eighteen years in ministry, the majority of that as a youth pastor. In 2008 I started as an assistant high school coach, and I fell in love with it. I discovered that in coaching I had twelve to fifteen guys who were mine, who were with me every day. And I felt like discipleship was happening on a much deeper level.
I ended up at Johnson University because my wife, who is a doctor, began working at UT Medical Center, and we moved to Knoxville in 2013. We really felt like this was home. I connected with Johnson through our faith community at Crossings Church.
Q: What are the mission and core values of Johnson University athletics?
A: Our mission is tied to the mission of the University. As a University, we are about extending the kingdom of God by training students in vocational ministry or in strategic vocations. No matter what field they go into after graduation, students can see themselves as pastors in that role. So our athletic department is built on values that fit a kingdom emphasis.
The mission of Johnson University athletics is to be an active part of educating students through the framework of the Great Commission and prepare them to be leaders by placing high value on integrity, community, sportsmanship, and calling.
Q: Why did you want to move from the National Christian College Athletic Association to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) on the Tennessee campus?
A: As we researched the NAIA, most impressive to us was that more than 65% of its member base is faith-based institutions. We also saw that the Appalachian Athletic Conference, the conference we’re joining, is all faith-based institutions, with sister schools we are very connected to like Point University, Kentucky Christian University, and Milligan University.
Q: How does NAIA membership enhance our athletic program’s mission and values?
A: I think of the NAIA’s Champions of Character program, which is focused on integrity and servant leadership. They are challenging their members to be involved in the community, to take part in service projects, to do the things we want to do anyway. That is a great thing. Also, you see NAIA’s attempt to make mentorship possible. For me, that was a big deal because I see coaching as ministry. NAIA encourages mentorship and discipleship, which furthers our mission.
Q: As the Johnson University Tennessee athletic department moves into NAIA, what would your message be to JU’s alumni and friends?
A: We are going to strive to be the best we can possibly be. We’re going to fight for the student-athlete experience. We’re going to continue to bring Christ into the lives of our student-athletes, so they can meet that calling of the Great Commission and be active participants in kingdom work. We’re excited about what this means for our entire Johnson family, both future and past. Watch and see what happens over the next few years!
Watch the entire video interview with Coach Perry!