La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Four-sport player Maggie Johnson is an ‘ultimate leader’

Bishop's School junior Maggie Johnson competes in water polo, field hockey, softball and swimming.
Bishop’s School junior Maggie Johnson competes in water polo, field hockey, softball and swimming.

One might think that competing in field hockey, water polo, swimming and softball would be overwhelming. But not to this Bishop’s School junior.


When it comes to being a multisport athlete, one might not think that skills in field hockey would necessarily translate to water polo. Or swimming skills to softball. One also might think that playing four sports would be overwhelming.

But for Maggie Johnson, a junior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, being a leader, keeping focus, tapping into her creativity and using strategy are skills she uses in all her sports — and she thrives.

Now focusing on water polo, Maggie, 16, has been a field hockey goalie, softball third baseman and varsity swimmer during her time at Bishop’s.

“Being at a smaller school, Bishop’s really encourages students to play more than one sport, and all the coaches are supportive and allow me to play multiple sports,” she said. “I enjoy it, and getting to play with different coaches and teammates is something I’m passionate about. I like getting to be in a new community.”

As for the sports themselves, they’re different, but they complement one another well, Maggie said.

“You pick up little things. As a goalie in field hockey, I have to think about shooting angles and open lanes, and that translates to water polo,” she said. “In softball, I get to slow down and focus and think about how I’m going to approach something, and I can apply that while I’m swimming.”

While certain skills can travel from one sport to another, when she enters the pool — or the dugout or the field — she focuses on that sport alone. That’s how she keeps balanced and avoids getting overwhelmed.

She said each sport offers something different that she appreciates. For example, in softball, the slower pace allows her to take a moment to plan her next move. In water polo, she appreciates that the sport is a combination of other sports, such as basketball, soccer and even wrestling. Maggie said she likes the individual nature of competitive swimming and the communication skills needed to thrive on a field hockey team.

“I focus on ... how I can get better and help my team,” she said. “It’s just one sport at the time. The school does a good job of allowing me the time and being willing to share their athletes and being supportive.”

Her coaches seem happy just to have her.

“Maggie is one of the hardest workers in the swim team,” said coach Jim Jordan. “She is at every practice and she loves to push herself. Some swimmers complain when they get a tough set from the coach, but Maggie gets everyone excited and starts saying, ‘Let’s go, we can do this.’ She is a focused and dedicated athlete and teammate.”

Field hockey coach Meghan Carr said “Maggie is a leader in the best sense of the word with her determination and her ability to create a positive team experience. In the fall of 2019, she was our starting goalie in field hockey and in her first game made a game-changing [play] in overtime, which helped our team in the long end have a successful run in the open division. We hope to get her back in the fall of 2021.”

On the softball field, Al Gomez said, “Maggie brings her competitive drive, tireless work ethic and positive attitude to every practice and game. As a freshman, Maggie was new to softball, but she was determined to get better every day by asking questions and taking extra reps. That formula has positioned her to be a key member of our softball team.

“Her approach to school, sports and daily life is an example we should all follow: Show up, do your best and have a positive attitude.”

Her water polo coach, Doug Peabody, compares her to late basketball great Kobe Bryant in that she is “in the gym before everyone and won’t leave until everyone is long gone.” She is the “ultimate leader in anything, in school or in the athletic arena,” he added. “She leads by example; she’s compassionate and empathic.”

He credits her with being “determined to be the best she can be, which rubs off on the rest of the team. She is a magnificent young water polo player for me to coach; she’s a sponge and wants every bit of knowledge I have.”

Outside of athletics, Maggie volunteers teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of automated external defibrillators and strives to alert those around her to the dangers of sudden cardiac arrest.

“SCA is something that happens so much in the United States and is something we need to address,” she said. “The statistics are staggering of people who die from SCA, and it’s a simple thing to teach CPR with the hopes that someone uses it. Teaching CPR is the most important thing I can do, because it’s what I do for other people. Knowing CPR and how to use an AED can save a life one day.”

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest “is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.”

In 2018, Maggie was part of Girl Scout Troop 3803 and brought CPR and AED training to Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla so fellow students could learn what to do in case of an incident of SCA.

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at