Popular Yokosuka coach transferring to Norfolk
June 18, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — He’s only 38, but James Dixon has been “Coach” nearly half his life.
It started with a teenage love affair with baseball. Then it spread to other sports — even sports the now-chief petty officer never played before, such as soccer, he said.
“People started asking me to coach things, and I can’t say no,” Dixon said. “So, with soccer, I had to ask the 9-year-olds to explain to me the rules. I’m still confused about ‘offsides,’ ” he joked.
After 11 years at Yokosuka Naval Base, Dixon will be transferred to Norfolk, Va., this July.
In those 11 years, Dixon has coached more than 300 kids ages 5 to 15 at Yokosuka Naval Base in five sports — baseball, basketball, soccer, flag football and softball, according to Morale, Welfare and Recreation Youth Sports Director Isaiah Mincks. The way the seasons run, that means Dixon has coached pretty much nonstop since he arrived in Yokosuka.
Dixon coached via e-mail while at sea. He coached when MWR added a summer basketball league last year, even though he was hoping for a break.
“He has even coached more than one team in a season — and that’s really hard to do,” Mincks said. “But he steps up and volunteers any time we ask him. Plus, a lot of parents and kids request him on their applications. That says a lot for his coaching style.”
Dixon says he doesn’t really have one — beyond emphasizing teamwork and sportsmanship, he said.
He’s “mean,” he claims — “I wouldn’t play for me.”
But parents and kids paint a different picture, Mincks said. Coach Dixon makes you work hard, but he cares about the kids and they know it, Mincks said.
“He’s firm, but fair. He’s not a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy, but he doesn’t put up with any crap, either,” Mincks said. “He gets to know the kids and understands what will make them succeed.”
“Coach” also goes out of his way to encourage kids. The family’s disposable income goes to custom-made, individualized trophies and lunches for the kids who forget money at away games, jokes Dixon’s wife, Merle. He puts the kids’ names on the uniforms and names the teams to build a stronger team identity. This year, the baseball team was “The Braves.”
During baseball season, one of Dixon’s players comes home from each game with the “game ball” for a great play or good sportsmanship.
Dixon says the extra effort is his way of thanking the kids “for putting up” with him, sticking with the program and doing their best.
“I consider myself lucky to work with these young people,” Dixon said. “And I’m glad MWR has given me the opportunity to help a kid realize something every now and again.”
Last week, Dixon was on the receiving end of an MWR award and a letter of appreciation ahead of his transfer next month.
But coaching is a hard habit to break and Dixon likely will volunteer at his new duty station, he said.
“I’m always excited to see the season begin and excited to see it end,” Dixon said. “But at this point, I can’t imagine my life without coaching. It’s too late for me. I’m committed.”