CYO sports: Learning between the lines

By Ron Busch

As my wife and I are graduates of parochial schools, it wasn’t a difficult decision to send our children to St. Therese Catholic School. We both had good experiences growing up in grade school, and wanted our two children to have similar experiences.  Now, at least 25 years later, we all have good memories of their school days. Our 37 year old daughter, Ginger now lives in Seattle, Washington, and our 30 year old son, Andy now resides near Indianapolis.

St. Therese prepared them well and both have worked themselves into good jobs.  Ginger attended North Seattle Community College and works as a “biomedical electronic technician” for a University of Washington hospital. Andy attended Purdue and works for “Project Lead the Way,” an international educational technology company headquartered in Indy.  I’m justifiably proud and thank God for their journeys through life.

Each expressed interest when I approached them about an interview regarding their early CYO youth sports experiences at St. Therese School.  Ginger was more of an athlete than Andy; both played in CYO sports.  Ginger participated in CYO volleyball, basketball, and softball, while Andy played basketball and soccer.  I decided to interview them separately.  I wanted to find out independently about their CYO playing days.  What did they learn and retain from their CYO experiences ?

I talked to Andy first.  CYO presented Andy with an opportunity to learn to know his classmates at a deeper level.  He said that being a CYO student-athlete provided him with a chance to have good beginning friendships, something which may have been difficult otherwise.  Today he still maintains a number of these early friendships, bound early in CYO basketball and soccer.  Of course he learned “teamwork,” but also learned how to handle situations when things didn’t go his way.  Andy remarked that learning this at a young age in CYO sports has served him well through the years and helped him to become well-adjusted through his growing up years.

Andy remembered a basketball situation in which he set a block or “pick” for another player and got called for a foul.  Even though it wasn’t a foul in his eyes, his coach did “pull him aside” and took the time to explain why it was a foul.  It was a good learning situation.  It made a later steal and lay-up even more rewarding.  Andy still remembers that.  His advice for coaches is to remember that the “growing-up years” can be awkward at times for youngsters.  A coach has a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression based on his or her actions.  He also mentions that getting through the rough times can be rewarding as well.

Ginger summarized CYO sports in one word “Fun!”  She enjoyed being involved in something “bigger than herself.”  Friendships are important, and CYO helped her to forge some lasting friendships as well.  Beginning sports for youngsters may not come naturally, so it’s important to overcome obstacles and learn.  CYO provided that for her.  She didn’t have to be on a winning team to learn.  Being on teams struggling to be successful taught her good lessons in perseverance, developing a “don’t quit” and “never give up” attitude.  Being on a winning team can be a great thing.  But she felt that playing just for the sake of winning could have prevented her from learning that “this difficulty too shall pass.”  She learned not to get too upset when things don’t go her way.  Her softball experience included helping to build a winning team from scratch.  Her team developed a “tough exterior,” encouraging her fellow players to be directed toward a best possible result.

Ginger encourages CYO coaches to not direct anger toward an individual player.  “Humiliation is not motivating.”  She remembers how the softball coach bought ice cream cones after a tough win.  Regardless of the sport there is something to learn.  “Staying in the present moment” is another skill learned on a volleyball or basketball court, a softball diamond, or a soccer field.  Even the simple exercise of shooting a free throw in a close game teaches you to “stay in the moment,” dealing with a “pressurized moment.”  Should the basketball team be down 10 points, it’s important to keep giving 100%.  In CYO sports, as in life, if you give up, then you have no chance for success.  Better to try and fail, then never to try at all.

I’m glad my now adult children attended St. Therese Catholic School.  I’m glad they were challenged in their schoolwork.  I’m glad they also played in CYO sports. On the volleyball or basketball court, the softball diamond, or the soccer field, there have been many lessons learned.  As I watch CYO sports today I have no doubt that this life learning is still taking place today, right between the lines.

Posted on July 6, 2016, to: