July 1, 2022

Coach runs the good race to bring others closer to God

By John Shaughnessy

Matt DaffornIf one story can sometimes capture the essence of a person, this may be the one that defines Matt Dafforn.

A parent shared this story about the impact that Dafforn makes as the track and cross-country coach at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood:

“A few years ago, Matt invited a student who transferred mid-year in seventh grade to come out for track. It wasn’t surprising because Matt invites everyone, but it was exactly what this student needed. He was going through a rough time with the move, personal issues at home and a natural shyness.

“That track season changed the young man’s life, giving him new friends and a positive, supportive role model in Matt. The student is now in college and comes back to help coach as much as he can because he believes in what Matt does for others.”

What Dafforn primarily tries to do for others is summed up in a tribute from another parent: “He is just as happy for the last-place finisher improving their time as a first-place finisher winning the race. Matt also talks with the team about the most important thing we all have in common—our faith in Jesus. It is apparent that running is the vehicle Matt uses to bring others closer to Christ.”

The combination of these qualities led Dafforn to be chosen for the 2022 St. John Bosco Award, the highest award given by the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).

“CYO sports need to be fun and God-centered, so the kids get something out of it physically and spiritually,” he says. “I like to see them running because it’s a lifelong sport, a healthy way to live once they get beyond high school and college. It’s like going to church. You want God to continue to be a big focus in their lives.”

That focus on faith has been there since Dafforn started the cross-country program at his parish in 2010—a time when 16 children were on the team. Now, close to 80 run in both cross country and track.

On the day after Dafforn received the St. John Bosco Award, the track team had a surprise party for him at the end of practice. During the celebration, many of the runners gave him hand-written cards and pictures they had drawn.

“When I sat down and read them, I was amazed at what they wrote, the nice things they said. It meant I’m touching these kids’ lives in a positive way. It was touching.” †


Related story: Archbishop salutes CYO volunteers ‘for giving of themselves’

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