July 14, 2023

Father’s approach to sports and people guides next CYO director

Jack Schmitz will become the next executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization when Bruce Scifres retires on Aug. 31. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Jack Schmitz will become the next executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization when Bruce Scifres retires on Aug. 31. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

As the next executive director of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Jack Schmitz wants to follow the example of the one person who has had the greatest impact on his life.

Being the only child of his parents, Donald and Sheri, Schmitz spent a lot of time in his childhood with his dad, who was the athletic director and boys’ basketball coach for 25 years at St. Lawrence Parish in Lafayette, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

“I was always his sidekick in the gym,” Schmitz recalls. “He always had a strong connection to CYO and just loved being around it. Seeing him in that role, I saw the positive impact it had on so many people, not only in sports but how much it affected them in life. I just wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

The 39-year-old Schmitz then became emotional thinking about his father who died unexpectedly when Schmitz was 13.

“He accepted everyone for who they were. And he helped them out in any way that he could. He never knew a stranger and was friends with everybody. He just always gave back so much of his time to CYO and the parish. Without a doubt, I think he’s played a part in this.”

Schmitz shared his memories of his father a few days after the archdiocese announced on June 8 that he will become the next executive director of CYO when Bruce Scifres retires on Aug. 31 at the age of 66.

Scifres praised the selection of Schmitz, who has served first as the development director of CYO and now as the boys’ athletic director in his two years with the organization.

“First and foremost, Jack is just a really good person,” Scifres says. “He is a devout Catholic with a great work ethic and a strong moral compass. His calm demeanor and great sense of humor make him a real joy to be around. His people skills and ability to effectively communicate will serve him quite well in this position.”

Schmitz’s selection also drew praise from Brian Disney, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese who also oversees CYO.

“Jack has been a positive force for the past two years in his roles at CYO, and we are thrilled to have him rise to the position of executive director,” Disney says. “I look forward to working with him to ensure a bright future for CYO and all of the youths who benefit from its activities and mission-driven leaders.”

Schmitz says he’s “humbled” by his selection, adding, “The best part of this opportunity to serve in this role is to be a part of something bigger than myself.  The immense impact that this organization has on people is incredibly fulfilling, and I’m so thankful to be involved with it.”

The combination of their Catholic faith and CYO means a great deal to him and his wife of 12 years, Danialle, who grew up being involved in CYO as a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

The couple first met at Marian University in Indianapolis, where he played baseball, and she played softball. Now members of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville, they hope their Catholic faith and CYO have a similar positive impact on their three children—Morgan, 10, Grant, 7, and Beau, 5.

“In my own personal experience, growing up in Catholic schools and CYO helped strengthen and guide my life,” Schmitz says. “I want the same thing for my children. To be around great people, the family atmosphere of CYO and the Catholic community, I don’t think it gets any better than that in preparing you for life and helping you to become the best version of yourself.”

That’s also the ultimate goal he has for the 20,000 children and youths who participate in CYO activities in the archdiocese each year.

The pursuit of that goal is partly achieved through the eight sports that CYO offers to both girls and boys. Schmitz stresses that the goal is also achieved through the fun, faith-filled and year-round efforts of Camp Rancho Framasa, the CYO camp in Brown County.

“One of the coolest parts of the camp is seeing how inclusive it is,” says Schmitz, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Marian and a master’s degree in that same field from Illinois State University. “To see kids from all different backgrounds be able to enjoy camp and to have opportunities for kids with special needs to enjoy camp is just a phenomenal thing.”

Schmitz smiles as he shares some of the touching conversations he’s had with campers. One camper told him, “I can be myself here.” Another said, “I feel I belong here.”

“That’s great because sometimes athletics aren’t for all children,” he says. “To have those different experiences through camp, our music contests and our chess program is such a well-rounded way of helping prepare kids for life.”

While Schmitz appreciates the different ways that CYO activities provide new experiences for children and youths, he also wants to be open and inclusive in his future leadership of the organization.

“The volunteers, coaches and parents that are involved in CYO are so vital to the success of the organization,” he says. “From this office, I want to extend as much of an appreciation for what they do and to get out to meet those people, listen to them and hear their ideas for the future of CYO.

“We’ve done a lot of great things, and we’re currently doing a lot of great things, but there’s always an opportunity for certain changes to be made and certain ideas. I just want to be as visible as I can throughout all the parishes and schools and let them know how much of a direct relationship we have in serving the kids throughout CYO.”

He views such cooperation as all leading to a shared goal—continuing to have the Catholic faith be the foundation of CYO for everyone involved in it, both children and adults.

He has embraced that faith at the core of his life.

“I don’t know where I would be without my faith. I really believe my faith carried me through the loss of my father. And I truly believe that it’s been a calling to join CYO. To be the next executive director is just a wonderful blessing.” †

Local site Links: