Jim Carter

Jim Carter

The athletics gene is one thing; deep within Jim Carter’s DNA rests another trait: the desire to help develop and mold young people for the opportunity of success in life through the vehicle of coaching and giving back through high school athletics.

Carter, son of esteemed former TSSAA Executive Director Ronnie Carter, a National High School Fall of Fame inductee, quite simply knows no other path.

His earliest memories are ball fields, gymnasiums, wrestling mats; his role models, in addition to his father, and mother, Caroline, are the myriad coaches who have helped Jim Carter reach his current station in life: athletics director and baseball coach at Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, Tenn.

Now with more than a quarter-century coaching, education and helping young people, Jim Carter is being honored by the TSSAA as an 2023-24 Distinguished Service Award winner.

“It’s just incredibly humbling to be in this spot right here,” Carter said. “To realize the amount of people who I have been fortunate enough to know and work with and who mentored me and you just find yourself feeling very lucky and very blessed.

“As I went through my college experience, playing baseball at Jackson State Community College, my coach, Bubba Cates, he sort of gave me that hunger and desire to coach that was probably in my DNA and just had to be brought out. After I left there and went to play at Freed-Hardeman, Chuck Box just elevated that to another level. Those two men were just incredible mentors for me in understanding that path, and I’m thankful for those two great coaches but more importantly the example they set as great Christian men.”

Whatever or whomever the catalysts, hundreds of Tennessee high schools across multiple programs have benefited from Carter’s pathway in high school baseball.

Consider: He’s won some 665 games in stops at Jackson Christian School, Hunters Lane, Davidson Academy, Mt. Juliet High School and now, since 2014, Goodpasture Christian School.

Carter led four of those five programs – JCS, Hunters Lane, Davidson Academy and Goodpasture – to the TSSAA State Tournament in three different classifications, including 2022’s Division II-A state title team at Goodpasture.

Four times Carter’s diamond squads have closed as state runner-up, in addition to the crown, and he’s been honored as the Volunteer State’s top baseball coach by both the TSAAA and the National Federation of High Schools.

I laugh a lot of times, looking back 20-plus years and go, ‘ What was I thinking?’,” Carter said. “But this was where the Lord had set up your ministry, I felt called to do this. And I realized how important it became to do my best, to pour into kids and families and their lives. It’s always been (wife) Heather right there with me, every school and program we’ve been a part of.

“Hopefully we help kids and families see it’s way bigger than what happens on the field; that’s important but hopefully when kids exit our programs they are better for it, and I hope I’ve made some small impact on their lives and families and they feel like this was a positive experience for them and their family.”

Carter soon will coach his 1,000th career game atop a Tennessee high school program. He’s neither interested in slowing nor taking for granted the embrace he and his family have found at Goodpasture.

“I think what keeps me going now is the community that I get to be a part of and that Heather and I get to be part of every day and that’s Goodpasture,” he said. “This is my 10th year there now, and to get to be around kids that truly want to be the best versions of themselves in everything and they’re attempting every day to do that and replicate it, is special.

“To get to be around families that care deeply about results and success but care more about the environment we are in and are passionate about creating spaces we can connect, Goodpasture is family, a community. For me having the different perspective now as an A.D. and still coaching, I love the opportunity to be in both spaces because I love the opportunity to be around a core group of young coaches who are doing amazing things and that motivates me. This is where the Lord has positioned me currently in this school at this time and it is what really drives me.”

Bedrock in that approach, too, is a tenet Carter carries with him from his father to this day.

“I learned so much growing up with him and not really understanding it as you’re growing up, but he never came home from work in a bad mood, never come home from work and did not have time for his family,” Carter said. “I didn’t really understand that at that age. I’ve failed many, many times trying to replicate that lesson, but I’m mindful of it and always remember it. As time has passed, you start to really understand the burden and stresses in that position [as former TSSAA executive director]. But to be able to come home and not bring those burdens and stresses home, it’s been a great lesson and one I continue to try to model.”

TSSAA proudly salutes Jim Carter for his numerous contributions to student-athletes over the years throughout his coaching career.