January 7, 2022

Colts player helps kick off ‘Thank a Coach’ plan to aid CYO

Family members of the late Joe Cathcart are all smiles as they pose with the plaque honoring the late beloved Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football coach. Cathcart’s daughter Kelly, left, his mother Joyce and his son David received the plaque from Bruce Scifres, executive director of the archdiocese’s CYO. (Submitted photo)

Family members of the late Joe Cathcart are all smiles as they pose with the plaque honoring the late beloved Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football coach. Cathcart’s daughter Kelly, left, his mother Joyce and his son David received the plaque from Bruce Scifres, executive director of the archdiocese’s CYO. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Now in his ninth year as a professional football player with the Indianapolis Colts, Jack Doyle recently took time to praise the coach who first developed his love for the sport—and the approach he has always strived to bring to each game.

Looking back to his early days of playing in the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, Doyle wrote this tribute: “Coach Joe Cathcart was my first football coach. He instilled in me a great love for this game I have been blessed to play for 24 years.

“He taught me the two most important things about football—have fun and be tough. [They are] two things I carry with me today and hope to share with my kids as they begin sports. He is a CYO legend and always will be.”

Doyle shared his tribute to the late Joe Cathcart as part of a new initiative by the archdiocese’s CYO to honor Catholic coaches—from the grade school through the collegiate levels—who have made a tremendous difference in people’s lives.

The “Thank a Coach” program is also a fundraising effort by the CYO to help raise funds for the organization which has been hit hard financially by the pandemic, according to its executive director, Bruce Scifres.

“Our hope is that a lot of coaches receive many words of thanks for making a difference in the lives of young people,” Scifres says. “The fact that this might help us raise some much-needed revenue is just icing on the cake. Raising these funds is crucial to us being able to provide quality youth programs around the archdiocese.”

Through the “Thank a Coach” program, a person can make a donation to CYO—starting at $20—and write a message of thanks to their favorite coach that will be shared on the organization’s website.

Doyle and others who played for Cathcart made a combined contribution of more than $25,000 to CYO in honor of their coach who died in 2018 at the age of 56. The tribute touched the Cathcart family.

“I think it’s a great program,” says David Cathcart, one of his three children. “It’s great to see all the quotes from all the people he coached. It would put a smile on his face, and he would have been humbled by the overall recognition. He’d be proud of the boys he once coached and the men they’ve become.”

Cathcart coached teams at the third- and fourth-grade level from 1996 to 2017, mostly at Holy Spirit Parish and also at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis.

“He loved the game of football, he loved giving back and he loved teaching kids,” David says. “And all that came through in how he coached the game.”

Scifres hopes that other parishes across the archdiocese will be motivated to make similar contributions “to recognize beloved coaches from their side of town.” At the same time, he appreciates all donations.

A former CYO athlete made a $100 donation in honor of the late Phil Wilhelm, adding this tribute to the man who coached at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis: “Phil was my eighth-grade football coach. He was a great coach and friend for all his life. He did so much for me, Our Lady of Lourdes, and the CYO.”

A married couple saluted Karen Parker of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Parish in Indianapolis with a $25 donation and this message: “Thank you for founding and leading the chess team at IHM. Your selfless dedication and leadership resulted in two championships in four years of CYO chess! You inspired many students to learn the game, always play smart and exhibit good sportsmanship.”

Scifres has also joined in the tributes to coaches, making one to Bill Sylvester Sr., who coached him in football at Butler University in Indianapolis from 1975 to 1978.

“He’s a devout Catholic,” Scifres says about Sylvester. “And he was everything I think a coach should be. He was demanding. He expected us to work hard. He also cared about us. And he prayed with us before every game. He inspired us to make the most of our God-given gifts. He wanted us to make our parents proud and make God proud.”

Similar to the influence Sylvester had on him, Scifres had a reputation for impacting the lives of his players beyond the field during his long tenure as the head football coach of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis from 1990 to 2016.

“I believe that other than a young person’s parents, a youth coach has the opportunity to influence and impact young lives in a very powerful way,” he says. “Countless life lessons can be learned through athletics—work ethic, loyalty, teamwork, fortitude, a sense of honor, a cause bigger than themselves. There are very few things that teach those life lessons like athletics—especially when there’s a coach who has the goal of instilling those life lessons.

“One of my all-time favorite sayings is, ‘A good coach will improve a player’s game. A great coach will improve a player’s life.’ ”
 

(To learn more about the “Thank a Coach” program and to make a donation and a tribute to a favorite coach, visit the CYO’s website, www.cyoarchindy.org.)

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