December 18, 2020

Coach wants to share family legacy with a new generation

By John Shaughnessy

Joseph SchaeferWhen Joseph Schaefer received a 2020 St. John Bosco Award, he became the sixth member of his family to earn the highest honor given by the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).

His grandfather won the award. So did a great-uncle, his father-in-law and an uncle. And Joe’s dad, Steve Schaefer, was given the award posthumously in 2019 for his positive, faith-filled approach to coaching children in CYO sports.

“It’s a very nice honor,” Joe says. “It brought me back to being little again, when my dad was my coach. And it’s made me think of all the years that I’ve coached.”

Still, Joe insists that to focus on the family’s tradition of winning an award is to miss the true legacy that has been handed down through the generations of his family.

“I saw how my parents were with their Catholic faith,” says Joe, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “They were very much a man and woman of action. We struggled financially at times, but they had plenty of time to serve others. I feel I wanted to fulfill their legacy—showing our Catholic faith through our actions more than our words.”

Joe has lived that legacy. Now 50, he has coached 60 seasons of sports in the past 28 years, leading CYO teams in boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ kickball and girls’ volleyball.

“As I’ve gotten older, the focus has shifted away from the wins and losses to developing relationships with the players and relationships with the families. Developing those relationships with as many people as you can is what keeps you going.”

That emphasis on relationships always leads him back to his dad, who was the best man at his wedding “and the best coach I ever had.” Father and son also coached youth soccer together. Joe also savors coaching kickball with his wife, Kim, volleyball with his sister, Therese, and basketball with his close friend, Jeff Kirkhoff.

“Coaching my three children—Jack, Maddie and Mary—that was the most fulfilling part. By this point, I thought I’d be done. But I want to continue as long as I can.”

He also hopes to instill that legacy of volunteering for the CYO into the younger generation that has benefitted from its programs.

Toward that goal, he has recruited a college student, Jeff Kirkhoff’s son, Joe, to help him coach a boys’ basketball team this year.

“As a 50-year-old guy, maybe my best way of helping the CYO now is as a mentor. I want to inspire the younger generation to take over the reins and help the CYO continue on.” †


Related story: CYO presents the St. John Bosco Medal, it’s highest honor, to five individuals

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