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As Bruce Scifres prepares to become the new executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), it means he will no longer lead the Roncalli High School football team that he has guided to seven state championships, including the 2016 team that finished its season with a perfect 15-0 record.
Still, Scifres doesn’t view his new position as an end to his 30 years of teaching and coaching at the high school in the Indianapolis South Deanery. Instead, the 60-year-old father of four sees the move as a continuation of his commitment to help shape the lives and faith of young people through sports.
“Leaving is definitely hard for me, but I truly see it as a continuation,” Scifres says. “CYO is committed to forming young people, and CYO’s athletic, enrichment and camp programs touch the lives of almost 24,000 young people and 7,200 volunteers throughout central and southern Indiana each year.
“I’ve been privileged to be a part of great teams for a long time, and now I will get to be part of a much larger team that has a profound and positive impact on thousands of lives.”
Before he assumes the full leadership of the CYO later this summer, Scifres will spend his mornings teaching at Roncalli and his afternoons “shadowing” the CYO’s retiring executive director Ed Tinder—who praised the selection of Scifres.
“He personifies what CYO sports is all about,” says Tinder, 68, who joined the CYO in 1980 and became its executive director in 1984. “He’s just a wonderful example of what fatherhood is about, a wonderful example of what all coaches should aspire to be and model. He believes in the connection between Catholic sports and the faith journey, the educational journey and the development of young people. He will be an amazing, fruitful addition to the CYO staff.”
Scifres’ selection was also praised by the search committee that met for more than five months—and sifted through more than 80 applications—before choosing him.
“We could not be more thrilled with Bruce,” says David Prechtel, the chairperson of the CYO board and a member of the search committee.
“Bruce will be able to continue CYO’s tradition of excellence, building upon the tremendous work of [previous directors] Ed Tinder, Bill Kuntz Sr., Bill Sahm Sr., and all the volunteers, priests, staff and board members who have been involved in this important ministry since it was founded by Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter way back in 1939.”
Roncalli’s president Joseph Hollowell also lauded the choice of Scifres to lead the CYO.
“Bruce is truly a master of his craft as a teacher, football coach, tactician and motivator,” Hollowell says. “He has emerged as a statewide and national leader in the dialogue regarding the proper role of sports in the formation of young people. This position certainly seems like a great fit for Bruce, and I am certain that the youth of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will be blessed through his hard work.”
Scifres says he decided to apply for his new position because “I felt God was speaking to my heart to do it.”
He hopes his leadership of the CYO will reflect his evolution as a coach at Roncalli—when his emphasis changed from the number of championship trophies his teams earned to the number of lives he could touch, change for the better and lead to Christ.
His approach to helping the CYO develop children will also coincide with four priorities that he established for his players at Roncalli, including wanting them to be good people, expecting them to make the most of their education, and helping them to grow as athletes. Then there was the priority at the top of that list: “We want our players’ involvement in football to strengthen their faith relationship with God.”
He will also bring to the CYO his priorities for coaching:
“Teaching kids how to play and win is very worthwhile, but I firmly believe … the main job of a coach is to teach his players how to live their lives, and how to strive to be the kind of people God created them to be. When this is done well, this is by far the most rewarding of a coach’s responsibilities, and it should be regarded as the priority in coaching.”
Scifres knows how his own life and faith was transformed by a coach—Tony Dungy, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship in 2007.
Dungy played an unknowing but crucial role in Scifres’ decision to become a Catholic.
Reared as a Protestant, Scifres met his wife of 29 years, Jackie, a Catholic, while teaching at Roncalli. He attended Mass with her on Sundays, and agreed to have their children learn the Catholic faith and attend Catholic schools. Yet he hadn’t made the commitment to joining the faith until he heard a radio interview with Dungy, a Christian.
In recalling that moment, Scifres notes, “Something he said has stayed with me: ‘Commit everything you do in life to the Lord, and you will be successful.’ He went on to say that this holds true in all aspects of our life.”
Scifres committed to the Catholic faith. That commitment has marked his years at Roncalli.
“The entire time I’ve been at Roncalli has been a true blessing,” he says. “Roncalli High School—my players, students, friends, colleagues and families—it’s been my life, my home away from home.”
Now, his commitment to his faith marks his future as the next executive director of the CYO.
“I’m very thankful Ed will be around to guide me,” Scifres says. “Ed has done an extraordinary job with the CYO for over 30 years.”
Scifres’ new CYO “team” will include Jerry Ross as associate executive director of sports and enrichment programs. Kevin and Angi Sullivan will also continue as co-directors of CYO Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County, while also focusing on development, marketing and programming.
Scifres sees one main goal for his new team—and for everyone involved in CYO. He summed up that goal in a personal mission statement that he plans to place in a prominent spot in his new office.
“My purpose is to use my platform as the CYO executive director to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and to live my life in a way that is pleasing to Christ.
“I will strive each day during my time here to make it to heaven, and my ultimate goal is to take as many people with me as I can.” †