June 1, 2018

Setback leads coach to make a difference

By John Shaughnessy

Tom MattinglyTom Mattingly remembers it as one of the toughest days of his youth—the day he was cut from the basketball team of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

Yet within a week, he was organizing a high school Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) team to play for the former St. James Parish in Indianapolis, a team he would coach, play on and lead to winning the city championship.

Thirty-seven years later, he’s still coaching in the CYO and still making a difference in the lives of the children and the youths he has volunteered to help.

“Getting cut was a blessing in disguise to let me end up coaching,” says Mattingly, a 2018 recipient of the St. John Bosco Award, the highest honor from the archdiocese’s CYO. “Things happen for a reason. One of the things was to let me get out there and do something different.”

While coaching became an unexpected outlet for Mattingly, the member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis has remained consistent in the way he has led his teams, starting with an emphasis on faith.

“Before the season starts, I give them a rosary ring. I’ll tell them, ‘We’ll say a Hail Mary before and after every game and practice. By the end of the year, we’re going to learn the rosary.’ And on game days, each player was chosen to say a prayer that they had written out on a piece of paper. It teaches them there are more important things than basketball.”

Mattingly has also stressed—and learned—there are more important things than winning.

“When you’re coaching, keep things positive. You don’t ever want to say or do that one thing that chases a child away. You want to inspire them. Kids like to be asked things, to be involved in things. When they feel they’re involved in the decision-making, they do better in practices and games.”

The father of three also tells his players, “When you join a team, you’re playing for each other. When you do that, good things happen.”

And while Mattingly has come to believe that “God doesn’t pick winners”—“the other people are praying, too”—he’s certain that God is always present in his life.

“In my coaching and my daily life, my Catholic faith has always helped me. God has been good to me. He’s blessed me with three great kids. And whenever I’ve had a problem, he’s been there for me.” †


Related story: Archbishop salutes CYO honorees for living ‘the joy of the Gospel’

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