With the suspension of all live sporting events over the past two months, rabid fans had to find other – possibly more, possibly less, meaningful – pursuits to fill their time. Those who are in the business of keeping sports fans satisfied have had to be creative in their ways of filling time on the air and in columns on sports pages and websites. Having had the present taken from them, they have had to focus on the future by asking questions about draft choices and trades and other such “crystal ball” esoterica, or they have looked to the past and come up with lists of things like the bests and worsts of games, teams, players, and the rest.
Maxpreps, an online division of CBS Sports dedicated to high school athletics, has not been left behind in this respect. In fact, for a website that routinely features articles with titles like “Midwest high school coaches select most overlooked 2021 football recruits” and “Way-too-early Top 25 basketball rankings,” this move to non-live sports information was very much within their wheel house.
Under normal circumstances, this is a website that flies totally under my radar, but one of their recent articles featured three friends of mine who are very familiar members of the Saint Ignatius family: Chuck Kyle ’69, Mike McLaughlin ’85, and Pat O’Rourke ’90.
The article “Top 100 high school sports coaches” has been featured on the Maxpreps website since April 24th, and was highlighted by Joe Ginley ’12 in an article on ignatiuswildcats.com a few days later. Joe does a great job of covering the careers and accomplishments of these three outstanding coaches, but the best part of the article is the last two sentences: “But more important than victories on the field are the wins off of it in the quality young men produced. And in that category, these three Saint Ignatius honorees have no peers.”
Part of me wants to celebrate that these are men who grew up as Ignatius student-athletes and who felt called to return to their Alma Mater to continue in the tradition in which they were raised. But another part of me wants to focus on what Joe called their “wins off (the field).”
Combined, these three men have offered almost one hundred years of service to Saint Ignatius: English teacher, theology teacher, classics teacher. Mentors and role models to literally thousands of young men, only some of whom were student-athletes. Respected colleagues and friends to hundreds of faculty members. Shining examples to the outside community of what the mission of Saint Ignatius is all about.
And they are not alone. As Joe points out, another coach of ours – Dan Arbeznik ’00 of the Language Department – could have also made that list, but Maxprep does not cover high school rugby. And beyond Dan there are so many other head and assistant coaches whose main work is in the classroom, with students, as teachers, day in and day out, year after year, decade after decade.
In so many ways, we at Saint Ignatius are spoiled. We are spoiled because we do not realize that not every place is like our place. To be graced with incredible teachers like Chuck, Mike, Pat, Dan, and so many others who, when ninth period ends, their day is only half over, is not the norm in high school sports. But it is the norm at Saint Ignatius. Those who are most influential in the lives of our student-athletes are also the same people who are teaching life lessons gleaned from the works of Shakespeare, the Gospels, and Cicero, as well as from the greats in every discipline of our wide-ranging curriculum.
To be sure, this spring has been a strange one, and the lack of Wildcats on the field and pursuing trophies has been difficult for our students and all who follow Saint Ignatius sports. But this period of athletic inactivity does afford us the time to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius himself by reflecting on where we have been in order to better know where we should go. Rather than counting our wins and state titles we can count our many blessings, including the gift of those whose role as coaches is an extension of their ministry as teachers.
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