December 18, 2020

Love for the game and her players guides award winner

By John Shaughnessy

Liz Turner SuschaHer intensity is on full display as she stomps, claps and yells to her players from the sidelines.

Her joy and playfulness shines through in the post-season awards she gives, such as the Cuisinart Award that she gave to one of her girls “because she mixed things up all the time, creating chaos on defense.”

Those qualities all come together with the two main ingredients that Liz Turner Suscha brings to coaching—a love for her players and a love for the game of basketball.

“It’s all done with love,” says Turner Suscha, a recipient of a 2020 St. John Bosco Award, the highest honor that the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) gives its volunteers. “While I may look intense, this is just fun for me—to see the girls come along, to see them develop from one game to the next. It’s satisfying to see them rise to the occasion and accomplish something as a team.”

That approach has guided her in 18 years of coaching basketball at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. While she has coached both girls and boys in the sport during the past four years, her focus turns to the girls when she talks about the impact she hopes to have.

“I treat them all as basketball players. I have expectations of them to do things together. They’re learning skills, they’re learning the game, and they’re learning things about life. By playing a team sport, girls can build their skills as leaders and being part of a team.

“Sports were such a rewarding experience for me that I want other girls to try it, to have that experience. I want every girl to decide for themselves if it’s fun or not, whether they want to keep going.”

Her joy, intensity and love for basketball—and the life lessons it can teach—are connected to her relationship with her father, Richard Turner, a past recipient of the St. John Bosco Award. Her dad coached her in CYO basketball in grade school. He continued to coach at St. Thomas long after.

“I really don’t think I’d be coaching this long if I didn’t have an example of someone who committed so many years and so much of his time,” says the mother of Anthony and Lydia.

“The things he stressed are what I apply in my own coaching—man-to-man defense, sportsmanship, commitment, and trying to make it a good, productive season for everyone to help them continue to play.”

At the same time, she adds her own style and emphasis.

“I think I have something to share with all my energy and experience. I think it’s about, ‘How can you contribute to your community?’ I’m part of that group that likes to give back.” †

 

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

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