Culture of Success

Culture of Success

Through almost every hallway, there are trophy cases showcasing the athletic, academic or musical talent the school hosts. While the majority of varsity teams and groups are represented by at least a handful of displayed awards, a few programs dominate the shelf space. Natural talent is a major component to success, but the programs with consistent results all have one thing in common; an established sense of community and culture. 

Last year, the varsity show choir ‘Innovation’ had a historic season, going undefeated. Innovation has a long history of high finishes at competitions, consistently taking home both individual and ensemble awards. Laura Grimm has been directing Innovation since 2021, and she values the importance of creating a positive group atmosphere.

Innovation kick starts the season by bringing in a team bonding specialist. Grimm notes that activities and “get to know you” games help the ensemble to “learn its strengths and weaknesses so we can target those early and understand areas that we will know we will be successful in and areas that we know we will need to work on.”

Lauren Hendrickson ‘24 has been a part of the ensemble since her junior year, and acknowledges how the group’s dynamic impacts their on stage presence. 

“We are just so comfortable with everyone and so we can interact with one another as we perform…we just have that bond and you can tell.”

— Lauren Hendrickson '24

The show choir performs a different show each year, but the ensemble strives to take each theme to heart. 

Last season’s theme was ‘We rise by lifting others’ and Grimm attributes a lot of the group’s success to the work the ensemble did in the community.

 “We lived our theme on and off the stage and I think that was really effective for the kids as they performed because they learned a lot about what it means to give back to the community and volunteer and what that felt like,” Grimm continues, “They were able to use real life situations and then portray them when they were performing on stage so I think that was really special.”

Innovation performs their undefeated show ‘We Rise by Lifting Others’


Tyler Phi ‘24 recognizes the impact volunteering has on the ensemble.

“It makes us closer but also because it ties into what the show means.” Phi said. 

The ensemble has established traditions and a history of success, but Grimm finds that each group leaves their own personal mark. 

“We’ll focus a lot on really hard work and being the best version of yourself when you’re on stage and every year that is the theme that continues even when our show theme changes.” Grimm said. 

The girls basketball team is another program with a tradition of dominance. The team has made an appearance in the state final for four consecutive years, bringing home titles in 2020 and 2022. 

Iowa State commit Aili Tanke ‘24 notes that there is an emphasis on team bonding this year. 

“We talk about things that are important to us so that we can feel connected to each other and yeah, we just try to get to know each other so that we can build relationships.”

 Northwest Missouri State commit Aaliyah Riley ‘24 reiterates the focus on community.

 “We actually decided to start working more on our “culture” this year by doing everything as a team. Like our purple hoodies we wear on game days.” 

The past three years, the program’s motto has been ‘together.’ But the team has a new mindset for this season, 

“We have been focusing on attitude,” Take said.

Riley adds, “We have pink towels that have the word “attitude” on them. When we check in the game for our teammates we hand them to each other.”

 Aside from building a strong mindset, Tanke and Riley attribute a lot of the program’s success to the talent the team hosts. 

“Every year we have at least like three Division One players.” Tanke said. 

Riley adds, “We rebuild whatever we lose from the previous years.”

After coming up short last season, the team is eager to prove themselves.

“We know we can win and that we should win so we’re just focused on trying to win another state championship,” Tanke said. 

The culture in the Johnston Baseball Program is like no other. It is strong and time-consuming. From lifting, hitting, catching and batting together, the boys on the team become a family. Coach Michael Barta puts a lot of emphasis on team culture, leadership and mindset. Their team is very successful, winning five state titles since 2012. The dedication and determination is tremendous. 

“The team culture is expecting excellence and striving to be the best  version of yourself everyday,” noted Rafe McConnell ‘24. 

But their success does not come from only talent, it is from the environment and  the intense culture that is created. To be a part of the baseball culture is an accomplishment. 

“Simply putting on a Jersey with a J on it adds the responsibility of being a winner and upholding and carrying on the legacy of every guy who has worked for that same common goal before you.”

— Zach Moorman ‘24

Unlike other sports, the culture is influenced heavily from leadership in the team. As the players get older, they step into the spotlight as the new leaders. Although they do not always have to be the oldest, the seniors and juniors usually set the tone. 

“The biggest challenge is leadership every year, because you graduate wonderful players, and some seniors and then you turn all those kids over and it’s like a brand new team,” Barta said. 

They work together and focus on the process, knowing that will help them on the field. The team gets closer, knowing that they all have the same goal, to win another championship. 

“Obviously, our mindset and goals are to win another state title. But, something the team talks about a lot is not so much focusing on the goal, but more on the process and grind of achieving our goals. Trying to control what can be controlled,” Caleb Hanson ‘24.

Most teams do team bonding activities outside their sport. However for baseball, they already spend so much time together, that they don’t do many activities outside. 

“We lift together, we run together, we throw together, we hit together, we do everything as a unit,” Barta said.  

They spend a lot of the time in the weight room, getting better together. They are not only together in season, but off season too—off season training is an important part of their success. Their team continues to grow together as a family. They create this culture inside and outside of practice, and make friendships that will last a lifetime. 

“With the high standards comes a super large amount of hours with your team on and off the field, in season and off season. Friendships turned to brotherhood that will last most of us guys a lifetime,” said Zach Moorman ‘24. 

One reason that Coach Barta likes the team to be connected is so when the season comes, everyone supports each other. 

“We want to do so much together so that when it gets to season and the biggest games, we want people to want to root for each other,” Barta said. 

The team strives to win every game, but supporting each other during losses is important too. To be a good team, you need to win and lose together. Their culture is set up to be there for each other when it is easy, like winning games. And when it is hard, losing the tough ones and through the difficult practices. The dedication cannot only come from the coaches, the players have to put in the work themselves.  

“In general, the kids are in control of their success, it’s 100% the kids,” Barta.    

The Johnston Baseball Team earns their state titles by the hard work, dedication, friendships they create, and their amazing team culture. From the younger classmen, to the seniors, they all strive to be the best they can, and a leader to their peers. 

“You can really contribute on a baseball field and be any size, any weight, any kind of athlete- anybody can be great at baseball if you work at it,” Barta said. 

With the right mindset, this team can do anything. 

“Part of what I believe makes the team successful is the bond we all share between teammates, coaches, managers etc… we all love each other and want what’s best,” said Caleb Hanson ‘24.

The girls cross-country team has taken a first place finish three times in the last five years. Many people assume this is because of the outstanding runners—and it is, but it is also because of the great environment. The Johnston Girls Cross Country Team is known for having one of the best team environments in the school. From sharing the term “soul sister” to spending countless hours together, they never fail to act like a true family. 

“We use the term soul sister to describe our relationship with our teammates. Being a soul sister means to just care about everyone on the team like they are family. We cheer for every person on the team and one of our biggest goals is just to support each other,” Morgan Sullivan ‘25 said. 

The one word that stood out in learning about the cross country team is “culture”. The culture of the team is something so important. The coaches spend every day trying to create a positive culture. 

“We have such a special bond with our coaches, because they just want the best for us and our team. They constantly believe in us and put so much emphasis into being a soul sister and creating a positive culture,” Sullivan said. 

In the summer, the team goes on a team camp to places around Iowa. While they are there, they spend hours doing team bonding and going on fun runs together. 

“Being close is a big focus for us. The older girls embrace the younger girls.” Krissy Spear. 

Many teammates say that team camp is the highlight of their season. While they are there, they create many new memories and friendships that kick off the season with a bang. 

The culture of the cross country team is evident through the way they interact, constantly supporting each other. At races, everyone cheers for each other, regardless of how close they are, or how slow or fast they are running. 

Alyx Woodley ’26


“Everyone is so supportive and knowing that there’s people that believe in you gives you so much more confidence when you’re racing” Makenna Teel ‘25

Even at races, people have noticed how Johnston embodies the awesome team spirit. Having good soul sister connections really makes a difference on the team.  

“This year we put a lot of emphasis into doing things together and overall just creating the best possible environment, and I think that it’s a big part of our success.” 

— Ashley Arbuckle ‘25

Although they did win state, the best part of winning was that they all did it together. 

 The team culture is not only driven by the coaches, but also by the upperclassmen. Once an upperclassman, they are there to bring up the team and be a leader. Many underclassmen look up to the older girls. In the summer, they had sand volleyball games, and team dinners. 

“We focus on having many team dinners throughout the season so we can connect with our teammates in other ways than running,” Siena Kriegel ‘24 said. 

This helped create relationships while having fun at the same time. Also, many upperclassmen would run with the underclassman over the summer. This would spark many new conversations that tend to make people learn a lot about their teammates. 

The coaches would also participate in the runs, they would motivate the runs, while also creating a fun environment. Many soul sisters in cross country love the mix of social interactions on the team, and the awesome workout you get too. They are always left feeling better about themselves.  

“It’s so special having 50 plus girls that all want the best for you inside and outside of cross country.” Spear said. 

The cross country team culture is something that will never disappoint. The countless positive comments, and the incredible environment is what makes the team who they are. Not only did they win the state title, but they did it with the biggest cheering squad out there.  


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