December 18, 2020

Coach’s focus on family and faith started with her dad

By John Shaughnessy

Joanie EnglishJoanie English became overwhelmed with emotion when she read the letter.

The letter informed the mother of five boys that she was chosen for a 2020 St. John Bosco Award, the highest honor that the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) gives—the same honor that her dad, Dick Kidwell, was scheduled to receive in 1977 before he died in a car accident.

“I was 14,” recalls English, the ninth of her parent’s 10 children. “My oldest brother received the award for my mom because she was too emotional to go up. That’s why this is so heartfelt. It just brought back memories of him. I love my dad. I was just proud I received an award that he did. That’s why I got so overwhelmed.”

Following in her dad’s footsteps, the 57-year-old English has coached for 35 years, including kickball, girls’ soccer, boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball. She has mostly coached at her home parish of Holy Name in Beech Grove, but she has also led teams at other parishes when they needed a coach.

She has also coached undefeated, championship teams, but she says her “most memorable and heartfelt” team was a girls’ volleyball squad that finished with an 0-6 record for the season. She coached that St. Barnabas Parish team at the request of her brother Richie who said his daughter Casey—English’s niece—“would love to be coached” by her aunt.

“It was fun,” English recalls. “I just enjoyed the girls so much. I still keep in touch with them. That’s one thing about CYO. You all end up being family.”

English has helped create that extended CYO family by the approach she brings to the sports and the players.

“I’ve always tried to develop every child and not just the athlete. CYO is about developing all of them, getting the best out of each child.

“My goal is to teach them not only to be a good athlete, but to let them know they are playing because of God’s love. I try to have them be confident in themselves. I start out by telling them that I’ll never be upset with them for making a mistake. It’s always about looking forward to the next play. It’s all about learning to live and have fun.”

English is still having fun after 35 years of coaching.

“I love sports and being able to share my Catholic faith is important to me,” says English, who has also been a referee for CYO volleyball for 20 years. “I love kids. I love people. That’s my happy zone.

“After all these years, I’m most proud of my past players who come up and acknowledge that I’ve coached them, and that they’re coaching now. CYO is all about faith and family. I’m honored to be a part of it.” †


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

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