His kids know him as "Dad," his students said "Mr. Arntson" and his players went with "Arnie," but for all intents and purposes, you might as well call John Arntson "Mr. Clackamas."
Arntson, who finished a wildly successful 24-year run as Clackamas High School's head baseball coach last spring, is ready for the next step in his professional career and — no surprise here —Â it's all about Clackamas.
Arntson, who turns 49 in September, was hired as Clackamas' new athletic director at the end of the 2020-21 school year, replacing Vicki Nelms, who left to serve as AD at the new Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley. He primarily taught U.S. history and world history during his 24 years in the classroom at CHS.
Needless to say, Arntson is up for the challenge and enthusiastic about what lies ahead at Clackamas, a place that's been his only professional home since graduating from college back in the mid-1990s.
"I bleed red and black," Arntson said about his love for CHS. "This place has been amazing. … I just think it's a really good community and the kids we're working with are awesome kids. They want to work hard and they want to be successful for the most part."
That said, Arntson — who finished his coaching career with 420 wins and three state championships — knows there are challenges ahead for Clackamas. His school lost three of its fall varsity coaches to Nelson, along with 75 seniors and around 1,500 students in total.
"I think the big challenge is getting our participation numbers up where we want them," Arntson said. "For a long time at Clackamas, coaches had the luxury of here come these kids to their program, and here's the ones I want. Now, it's you don't have enough kids and we need to find ways to go out and promote our programs and recruit some of the kids in our hallways to come out and participate."
Arntson said that over the next three years — with Clackamas' enrollment expected to drop from last year's 2,370 to somewhere around 1,800 this year — his goal is to increase participation in athletics and activities at CHS from its current level of about 40% to 75%.
"There's also a little bit of a mindset change with some of our athletes — the three-sport athlete was almost nonexistent at Clackamas. We had very, very few of those, and even two-sport athletes," Arntson said. "So, trying to get back to that model, I think, is going to be really important where some sports can share kids."
Like the rest of Oregon's high schools, Clackamas is also dealing with the lingering aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on athletes and athletics.
"In my role, it's just trying to be prepared for those things. You know, what are the rules now, and let's get (our responses) in place," Arntson said. "But also with an eye on, if we do have to change some things, let's try to set some things up so it's not too difficult to make some of those changes."
Regardless of what lies ahead, Arntson said that he and Clackamas' administration, staff, coaches, students and parents will be ready. And for Cavaliers sports, who better to lead them than Arntson, who has spent the past quarter century at CHS?
"The other thing I want to see us do is … get back to the idea of going and supporting each other where we've got the girls basketball team going to the football game and the football team going to the play and the kids in drama coming to the baseball game," he said. "You know, where there's more support and it's … cool again. The school spirit's not what it's been in years past. … So, not every single kid's going to the football game on Friday night … but I want to find ways to make that fun again."
Come spring, though, Arntson knows he'll feel the pull of baseball calling to him, just as it has over the past 24 years of his coaching career. To ease the transition, CHS has hired longtime Oregon City baseball coach J.J. Winkle to take over Arntson's former program at CHS.
"The nice thing for a guy like J.J. to come in is he's not … affected by my legacy at all. He's built his own legacy," Arntson said. "I feel really good (that) we brought J.J. Winkle on as our head coach. He's going to do a great job and so that that's going to make it easier for me."
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