June 28, 2019

‘He was the best coach I ever had’

By John Shaughnessy

Joe SchaeferAs the awards ceremony honoring his father approached, Joe Schaefer thought it would be a bittersweet moment—a reminder of how much he missed his dad, who had died two years ago.

Yet as his mother Mary Anne accepted the St. John Bosco Award on behalf of his father Steve Schaefer, Joe was surprised by his reaction.

“It was complete joy,” Joe Schaefer says about witnessing that moment on May 7 during the Volunteer Awards Ceremony of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). “CYO sports were something my father lived for. So to see him honored for something he loved was total elation.”

Steve Schaefer’s love of CYO sports began when he played football for his father and uncle. It flourished when he also coached his four children—Santina, Joe, Dodie and Terese—and their teams during the 1970s and ‘80s at St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis

“My dad brought a very God-centered, positive and fun approach to his teams,” Joe says about what he, his siblings and his teammates learned from his father as a coach. “We knew that winning and losing wasn’t the difference for a successful season. The journey was more important than the results. He felt it was OK to compete and fail as long as you practiced and prepared as best as you could.”

Even after heart operations in 1986 and 1988, Steve Schaefer stayed involved in sports at St. Roch where his daughter Terese has been a longtime coach of kickball and volleyball. He also enjoyed watching Joe coach at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, and the two teamed up for a few years coaching youth soccer.

“It’s continuing the family tradition,” Joe notes. “Coaching together was just an extension of our relationship as father and son. He just had such joy spending time with youth.”

Beyond the joy that Joe felt for his dad earning the CYO’s highest honor, he also felt the love and the pride he has always had for his dad, who died in 2017 at the age of 75.

“My father was my hero. He was the best man at my wedding, and he was the best coach I ever had. I cherish every moment with him.” †

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