MacJohn Sports founders Michael McCloskey and Ronda Johnson


When Ronda Johnson and Michael McCloskey were dating before marriage, they discovered a shared love for sports and physical fitness. And with both employed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as military and civilian, they also understood the power of a DoD Joint Task Force (JTF) structure to bring together diverse resources to achieve strategic objectives.


And then they went on the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Cruise. In the ship’s gift shop, Michael thumbed through Forged in Steel: The Seven Time-Tested Leadership Principles Practiced by the Pittsburgh Steelers, co-authored by Tunch Ilkin and Damian Williams. Upon returning home, Michael bought the Kindle edition on Amazon and read it once. Then twice. And then a third time, highlighting key points and similarities to his current career situation.

As a light bulb went off in Michael’s mind, he shared a deep longing with his soulmate – “We’re reaching ‘half time’ in our lives,” he said to Ronda, referring to the book’s discussion of turning success into significance at a mid-stage of one’s career. “Do we want to stay in government service all our lives to pay the bills? Or do we want to take the chance and do what we’ve dreamed about together?”


Computer rendering of the new JTF facility in Grantsville, Maryland


Ronda shared Michael’s passion and quickly agreed. The result is the formation of their company MACJOHN Sports LLC, a female disabled veteran owned business, a relocation to rural Garrett County, MD and the design of a proposed 140,000 sq. ft. Joint Training Facility (JTF) in the town of Grantsville.

The JTF, a play on words with the military acronym, will be a premier sports and training destination for the local area and the I-68 corridor between Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, and within a six hours’ drive of New York City, Detroit and Charlotte. The goal is to be open in the spring or summer of 2017.


The company’s mission statement says it all: "JTF endeavors to encourage a healthy life through sport and fitness in an inclusive and safe environment with the community as the nucleus of the enterprise."

“We plan to host tournaments, local and regional events and workout activities for the community,” Ronda said. “We also plan to hire at least nine full-time and up to 40 part time employees to manage events, food concessions, facility operations and fitness facility operations.”

In addition to basketball and volleyball, JTF will utilize four hardtop courts for additional sports, such as wrestling, gymnastics and “pickleball,” a game all the rage in Garrett County. JTF will also provide a home for turf based sports with an indoor turf field two-thirds the size of a football field for football practice, indoor soccer, lacrosse, baseball batting cages and more. Nine all-purpose rooms will house classes, conferences and community gatherings. JTF will have 3,400 sq. ft. available for lease to a complementing business such as a physical therapy clinic and retail sporting goods. In addition, 1900 sq. ft. space will be leased for an onsite child day care and babysitting service for gym members.

As a U.S. Marine with multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Kosovo and Bosnia, Michael knows how the DoD JTF drew military and civilian subject matter experts into one package. As a linguistic specialist with the U.S. Army and a project manager/supervisor with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ronda already had the management, fiscal and mission-critical experience to execute their shared goal. They turned to Forged in Steel co-author Damian Williams and his firm Leadership League for a “deep dive” analysis and guidance on budgeting and financial forecasting.

“Forged in Steel helped us see that our dream is attainable,” said Ronda, a lifelong Steelers fan who grew up in Latrobe, PA. “It showed us that there were other opportunities out there for us.”

Added Mike, a Staten Island native: “It’s not a self-help book. It’s written in clear terms, with a good mix of Steelers player and management quotes, in the same types of conversations we’ve found in the military. The book shows that those pushing themselves the hardest are the ones who succeed.”