Whether he’s coaching on a high school basketball court or softball field, Jim Moore is in his element.
“It’s the best profession in the world in my opinion,” Moore said.
Moore, 47, is currently head coach of the softball team and boys basketball team at Houston High School, and is also assistant principal at Houston Elementary School.
A math teacher by trade, Moore began his high school coaching career in the fall of 1998 as an assistant in the boys basketball program at Winona, and has since held head coaching positions at Winona, Pierce City, Fair Grove, Carthage, Aurora and Houston. His lengthy and colorful resume features numerous championships, beginning with a pair of softball conference titles and a baseball conference crown at Winona. From there, the list grew with four girls basketball conference championships and two district crowns at Pierce City, followed by two conference and two district girls hoops titles at Fair Grove. His successes at Fair Grove included back-to-back appearances in the Class 3 Final Four.
As the years progressed, Moore led the Carthage girls to a district hoops championship, and then guided the HHS softball team to back-to-back South Central Association conference championships in 2019 and 2021 (there was no season in 2020 due to COVID-19) and the Class 2 District 4 crown this year.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some good athletes,” Moore said, “and we’ve had some good teams.”
Moore is a Houston native and an HHS graduate. He earned a degree in secondary education (with an emphasis on mathematics) from Missouri State University in 1998, and secured a master’s degree in administration from William Woods University in 2004.
Not surprisingly, the HHS softball team’s district championship this past season holds a special place in Moore’s heart.
“I treasure every championship I’m a part of,” he said, “but to come back to your home town and get a district championship at the school you graduated from means a lot.”
Moore’s wife of close to five years, Maggie, is counselor at Houston Elementary School, and the couple’s family includes 21-year-old Charlee Sue Jadwin (of Salem) and 13-year-old Nate Jadwin (of Houston).
Moore helped launch the softball and baseball programs at Pierce City. He has led the HHS softball program for four years and has coached boys hoops for two after guiding the girls squad for four seasons.
No matter where he’s coaching or in what sport, Moore finds satisfaction in having an impact on the kids he’s working with.
“It’s the feeling of maybe making a difference,” he said. “I want to see our kids succeed, whether it’s on the floor or field, in the classroom or in real life once they graduate. I want to influence them in a positive way and play a part in helping develop them into productive citizens and outstanding individuals.”
Moore doesn’t take that duty lightly, and recognizes some ways that help him execute it.
“Instilling discipline in your teams in a positive way is important,” Moore said, “and so is building teamwork and learning to work together to accomplish great feats you couldn’t achieve individually. It’s great to be able to build something you can just feel, and it’s so special to be a part of that.
“It’s great to see kids grow from the beginning of a season to the end, or from the beginning of their careers to the end. I want them to be a better person when they leave here than when they came, and I want to help them be the best they can for whoever they come into contact with.”
Effort and teamwork aren’t just sports buzzwords to Moore, but elements of life that affect everyone in a multitude of ways.
“Those are fundamental principles that it takes to be successful,” he said.
PUTTING ON THE PRESSURE
Moore is known for almost always coaching with an aggressive style.
He even called a suicide squeeze play during the seventh inning of the softball district championship game against Ava on May 11 (the play was successful and kick-started a decisive 4-run rally).
But Moore’s tendency toward aggression is by design.
“For one, it’s a lot more fun to play that way,” he said. “But whatever team I have, I preach to them that if you want something, you go get it, and that nobody’s going to hand it to you, you’re going to have to earn it.
“I think being aggressive puts the pressure on other teams and makes them have to make plays to beat you instead of you worrying about making mistakes to beat yourself. The way I see it, if we’re going to get beat, it’s going to be on our terms.”
Moore reached the 300-win mark in coaching high school hoops when the HHS boys beat Van Buren during a tournament at Cabool in January 2021. He likes to utilize his training and skill as a teacher in his coaching.
“That’s my profession – I’m a teacher first,” Moore said. “I think everyone can always learn something – including me. I’m going to be a life-long learner; there are always things I can do better.
“But I feel like it’s my job to give as much knowledge as I can to my players. Sometimes that’s by correcting them, sometimes it’s by building them up, and sometimes it’s by tough love. But all of it is to try to make them a better player and a better person and to help our teams perform better.”
Coaching high school sports can involve having to make numerous split-second decisions during the heat of a battle. Moore relishes that opportunity.
“I’m kind of a procrastinator by nature – ask my wife,” he said. “But my mind is always working and when the pressure is on, that’s when I can really perform. Sometimes you make a decision that’s right and sometimes you make decisions that are wrong, but I feel like the bigger the situation, the better I am.”
Having coached both boys and girls high school teams, Moore has noticed similarities in their work ethics.
“I’ve enjoyed my time with both of them and they all work hard,” he said. “And I have the best job right now because I get to work with both sides.”
But Moore has also observed distinct differences in the way players of each gender go about their business and how they react to him.
“The girls tend to be perfectionists,” he said. “When you tell them to do something, they want to do it exactly how you want it. On the boys side, I’m not saying they don’t want to do something perfectly, but they tend to rely more on their athleticism. And that’s not to say that girls aren’t athletic, because I’ve had some very athletic girls, but they’re going to perform better if you have a solid system of Xs and Os. The boys do perform in an Xs and Os system, but they tend to lean more on athleticism.”
As his coaching years added up, Moore’s life perspective shifted.
“Early on, I was trying to climb the ladder,” he said, “and I did that. I’ve coached at a Class 1 school with 120 kids in high school and a Class 5 school with 1,200 kids. I enjoyed my time climbing the ladder, but I came to a point when I guess my motivation and priorities changed a bit.
“And then life brought me back here, and I’m so thankful it did. I never thought I would be back here at Houston, but the opportunity came up and I decided to take it. It’s been such a blessing, because I was able to meet my wife here and my parents and a lot of family are around, and it’s just great to be back in the community I grew up in.
“When I was playing basketball here, I thought I might be coaching here someday. But when my coaching career started I didn’t see myself coming back. But all of a sudden, here I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”