When two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Princeton High School (PHS) Coach John Miranda who is also a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves waited for the call that he knew would come. In February 2002, he was placed on active duty during Operation Freedom and was subsequently dispatched to Iraq where he handled multi-million dollar inventories as a logistics officer helping to move and support troops in the conflict. He was away from his family for a year and a half but the experience of focused teamwork toward a shared goal has given him valuable insights as a coach.
The son of a retired army officer, Mr. Miranda joined the United States Marine Corps straight out of Wilkes College in Pennsylvania, where he played football. It was at Wilkes that the former high school athletehe'd played football, baseball, and track for Riverside High School in Cinnaminsonreally fell in love with athletics. During his four-year stint as an officer in the Marines, he gained his first coaching experience as a player/coach on the battalion team, acquiring an enthusiasm for coaching that has never waned.
After leaving the Marines, he worked for a couple of years in management in the corporate world before deciding on a career plan that would allow greater focus on athletics and coaching. He moved into teaching in 1987.
With both of his parents being teachers, and his father a retired army officer, Mr. Miranda had always thought he would go into the military or into the business worldhis undergraduate degree is in business and his master's degree is in business education. In effect he's traveled both routes to reach his present destination. He's been at Princeton High School since 1993, as head baseball coach and as business and marketing teacher until his appointment last year as Director of Athletics for the Princeton Regional Schools. He's also in charge of the John Witherspoon Middle School athletics program.
With renovations and construction of the new PHS athletic facilities moving toward completion, Coach Miranda looks forward to seeing some positive effects on student health from the new fitness center. The center will boast an inside running track and a variety of exercise equipment. Most important of all, according to Mr. Miranda, is that it will be open to the entire student body. "Whether you're an athlete or not, you're going to get an opportunity to exercise at whatever level you want under the supervision of our staff. We're also hoping to have it open up to the entire community, after school hours."
With the goal of creating an individualized physical fitness/health program (including nutrition) for every child in Princeton's schools, the Princeton Regional School District has applied for a grant that would not only fund new equipment and staff training, but would support the necessary computer software.
Improved facilities such as the new state-of-the-art gymnasium, tennis courts, revamped athletic and new softball fields, said Mr. Miranda, will make his job even better. He enjoys just about all aspects of just about all sports. This year he's had a lot of fun watching the PHS wrestling team perform. "Every game is a little story in itself," he said.
As a coach, his biggest satisfaction comes from seeing kids stretch to reach their potential. "The big thing for me is seeing students have fun playing their sport and watching them play at a level that maybe they didn't think they could achieve." His biggest disappointment is parents who live vicariously through their kids and who don't allow them to enjoy the sport for themselves.
With such a large portion of his life spent on the playing fields and with other people's children, Mr. Miranda tries to spend as much time as he can doing things with his family. Mr. Miranda and his wife Jeannie, have three sons. John is 16 and a sophomore at PHS, where he plays football, baseball, and basketball. Fourteen-year-old Nicki is about to enter high school. Twelve-year-old Timmy is in sixth grade. The family lives in New Hope and loves to travel and explore different towns and villages together. They go to movies, visit local festivals such as the Doylestown Arts Festival, and attend Trenton Thunder games. This past winter, they went skiing and during the summer they plan day road trips.
Jeannie is a physical therapist working in the Pennridge School District of Pennsylvania. The couple, who will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this August, have a shared interest in athletics that has fueled long discussions over the years. "From my end it's about coaching, from Jeannie's end it's about anatomy," he said.
It has long been Mr. Miranda's dream to finish the doctoral program that he was applying for at Temple University when he received the call to active duty. Since that time, his higher education plans have been on hold. With his own kids rapidly approaching college-age, his plans may remain on hold for a while, he said. He continues to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the marine reserves, however, and recently returned from annual training exercises in New Orleans.
Although he's learned from every coach he's worked with, it was his first Pop Warner football coach when he was 12 years old who taught him most: "Osa Meekins of the old Palmyra Pals was my coach. He was a postal worker and besides my parents he was probably the most influential person in my life. He inspired me. I never wanted to let him down. He taught me lessons about life that have lasted a life time."
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