January 25, 2008

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Pressing the point: Coach’s biggest win is life of faith and hope

As a coach, Bill Boyd stresses a game plan for life, including the foundation of a Catholic education. (Submitted photo)

As a coach, Bill Boyd stresses a game plan for life, including the foundation of a Catholic education. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Every coach has a reason why he or she dedicates so much time and effort to a team of players.

Sometimes it’s to share their knowledge of a game they love. Or to get their fix of competition and glory. Or to make a difference in the lives of young people. Often, it’s a combination of those elements.

For Bill Boyd, coaching is a way to promote Catholic education and honor the memory of a teenager he used to know, a teenager who was angry and bitter about losing the best fan he ever had—his father.

It’s part of the story of Boyd’s life.

“My dad was my idol,” he recalls. “He was very strong—6-foot-2 and 240 pounds. Just seeing my dad and knowing my dad, he was invincible. I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus to see him and do things with him. I always looked forward to after basketball practice because he drove the car pool.”

Boyd sighs and continues, “I was 14 when he died. He battled colon cancer for three years. At the end, I’d lift him out of bed so he could get dressed. He was

80 to 90 pounds when he passed away. I started to get angry and bitter. I started to lose my faith.”

Thirty-six years have passed and now the 50-year-old Boyd coaches the boys’ junior-high basketball team at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville. He still sees himself in those youths. He’s still trying to give back for how a Catholic education helped him through that part of his life.

“The junior high years hit home with me, how important that time is,” Boyd says. “It’s a difficult time for adolescents. They are trying to find who they are, what they are and what they want to do. A lot of times, at that age, there’s difficulty communicating with their parents and teachers. They’re looking for a mentor, someone to talk to and look up to.”

So Boyd has a different approach when he coaches his players.

“I tell them it’s about basketball and improving their skills, but it’s more about life lessons,” he says.” I tend not to be the coach who is black and white, who is into Xs and Os. I talk to these kids. I try to bond with them. I try to relate to them my story.”

After sharing the chapter of his father’s death, Boyd shares the chapter of his rebellion against everything. In his most telling memory, he notes that three of his friends from his days in a junior high public school ended up ruining their lives with alcohol. He then tells how his mother, squeaking by on a bookkeeper’s salary, sacrificed to send him and his older sister to Providence High School.

“My mom made the smartest decision of my life,” Boyd says. “I’m not sure where I would be if I hadn’t gone to Providence. It probably saved my life. What Providence gave me was just this huge family. I got involved in theater, and I played basketball my junior and senior years. Providence helped heal the bitterness, the anger. Through religion classes, I started to get that spiritual bond back that I had lost when my dad passed away.

“I still to this day don’t even have a clue how my mom was able to put my sister and me through Providence. We weren’t Catholic. The tuition was double that of a student from a parish.”

Becoming a Catholic is the next chapter in Boyd’s story. It happened about five years after he graduated from Providence in 1975. He formed a close relationship with a strong Catholic family. He went to Mass with them, shared their spirituality and decided he wanted to become a Catholic, too.

Since then, he has also become a leading advocate of Catholic education. Besides coaching at Providence, he’s on the school’s board of directors and their marketing committee.

“Bill is a living witness to the power of Catholic education,” says Joan Hurley, the president of Providence High School. “Through his Catholic education, he was able to become deep in his faith and he lives it out every day now.”

Hurley shares the story of how Boyd has led a fundraising campaign to help pay the medical expenses of a child who has been diagnosed with leukemia. She also says that Boyd is a generous donor to the school’s financial-aid program.

“You can’t put a price tag on Catholic education and that experience,” says Boyd, a self-employed businessman. “Part of my testimonial when I talk about Catholic education is the importance of continuing it from elementary school to junior high and high school. Parents sometimes tell me after their kids finish elementary school, they have the foundation of faith they need. I tell people, ‘You have no idea in the junior high and high school ages how important it is to have that spiritual faith and structure.’ ”

Boyd knows. He’s lived it. Now, his life has come full-circle this season as one of his players is a seventh-grade student whose father died in the past year.

“I pulled him aside at the first practice and told him I lost my father when I was almost the same age as him,” says Boyd, a member of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph Hill in Clark County. “He’s become a special project for me this year.”

Boyd pauses and says, “The ultimate compliment I’ve ever been given was three years ago. I had a young boy who had been home-schooled. We convinced his mother and father he needed to come to Providence for all it has to offer. At the end of the basketball season, I got a card from his mom and dad. It wasn’t about basketball. It was about how they saw him develop his personality and his happiness and his acceptance in the high school.

“I still have that card. That means more to me than any championship trophy. I’ll keep that all my life.” †

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