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Parent, volunteer behind WAA's success

Woodbury Athletic Association offers baseball and other activities for area youth. Submitted photo

It all started with a group of parents.

Eager to create an organization for their children to play their favorite games, in June of 1970, these parents formed what would come to be known as the Woodbury Athletic Association, the oldest active sports organization in the city of Woodbury.

A grassroots organization in the most literal sense, the Woodbury Athletic Association began with no physical facilities.

"We had a P.O. box out of City Hall and we operated out of our homes," said Gene Johnson, president and executive director of the Woodbury Athletic Association.

Sporting equipment was stored in a little building at Ojibway Park.

"That was our storage facility for a lot of years," Johnson said. Later, equipment was stored in an old Public Works garage.

In the 1990s the city of Woodbury began to experience rapid growth. A direct result of this was an increase of families who were interested in the sports and activities that the Woodbury Athletic Association had to offer.

Woodbury Athletic Association keeps its motto visible and at the forefront of its operation. Submitted photo

"The city grew so fast in the '90s we decided to build a building. Now we're open from 2 to 6 (p.m.) for walk-in customers and have a facility that stores everything in one place and a meeting room. It's pretty nice," Johnson said.

An office warehouse facility was completed in 2002 providing the Woodbury Athletic Association ample space to carry out all operations and activities.

The Woodbury Athletic Association currently offers eight sports, the smallest being wrestling which serves about 40 kids and the largest by far being soccer serving 4,000. Over the years, activities have included almost everything you can think of, from badminton to bowling as well as hockey, basketball and soccer.

"Some come and go depending on the interest of parents providing the work," Johnson said.

Johnson has been a dedicated member of the Woodbury Athletic Association since 1986. Originally from Saint James, Minn., Johnson has lived in Woodbury for 41 years. He was introduced to the WAA through his wife who was already an active member. He was invited on board after the treasurer, at the time, stepped down — and the rest is history.

As current president and executive Director, Johnson is proud to always be working with a passionate team of parents and volunteers to whom he accredits the lasting success of the Woodbury Athletic Association.

Weathering all of the changes and developments within Woodbury, the WAA has remained a great contributor, continuously adding value to the lives of Woobury's families.

"We remain strong because we have good and successful programs and hundreds and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. We are strong because of the desire for kids to have the best sporting events as possible," Johnson said.

The Woodbury Athletic Association strives for the best in not only their programs but also in their coaches and volunteers who undergo multiple vetting and training processes throughout the year. One organization they have partnered with is Trusted Coaches, a program that offers the essential screening and training resources for youth coaches.

"This is so important for the entire experience that the kids get, they get their experiences from their coaches," Johnson said. "We want to make sure kids want to come back next year."