June 28, 2019

Coach is team player on field, at festival

By John Shaughnessy

John SullivanIt’s fitting that John Sullivan’s involvement in coaching has its roots in the other source of joy and commitment that has marked his longtime contributions to Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.

About 20 years ago, Sullivan was once again doing all he could to help with the parish’s summer festival that his parents helped start when he saw fellow parishioner Ken Blackwell, the coordinator of the parish’s football teams in the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).

Hoping to make a difference in the lives of the youths who play the sport, Sullivan told Blackwell that whenever the program needed another coach, he was ready.

Eighteen years later, the 57-year-old Sullivan’s love for the game and the youths he coaches is still going strong.

“I wasn’t expecting to do it this long, but it’s been fun,” says Sullivan, a recipient of a 2019 St. John Bosco Award, the highest honor given by the archdiocese’s CYO. “I just enjoy being around the kids, helping them in life. You want them to learn about teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s all about helping them be better men when they grow up, to help them go in the right direction.”

Sullivan’s favorite memories from coaching include when the parish’s football program took a new direction.

“In my second year of coaching, it had been a long time since Christ the King was in the playoffs—about 20 years. It was the last game of the season and we were down 6-0 in the fourth quarter with less than a minute left. We won the game and made the playoffs. We only had 14 players on the team that year.”

One of the best parts of coaching for Sullivan is hearing former players greet him, “Hey, Coach!”

“We tell them that even after we’re done coaching them, we’ll always be their coach. If they need anything in life, we’ll be there for them. You hope someday they’ll take over the coaching.”

For now, Sullivan still looks forward to being on the field with his players. He also looks forward every year—this was his 37th—to helping at the parish festival, where that talk with Blackwell added another rewarding dimension to his life.

“It’s what God wants me to do. I’m just lucky I am able to help with everything.” †


Related: Archbishop praises CYO honorees for letting God’s grace shine through them

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