February 11th, 2011

Elementary Excellence: Perpetual Help

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Elementary Excellence: Perpetual Help
photo from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is all about family in New Albany

In an age where the combination of strong personal character and sports has seemingly become the minority, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in New Albany, IN is diligently working to introduce good habits early and create a "family first" atmosphere throughout its entire athletic program.

Helping to lead the charge in that task is Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Michelle Hoffman.

A graduate of Lewis University - a Roman Catholic and Lasallian university in Romeoville, IL - Hoffman speaks softly, but carries a big stick where the care and progression of OLPH's students are involved.

And while Hoffman is not the school or parish athletic director, sports and its organization falls within her ministry work and has become a significant portion of what she does.

Handling the majority of the office and paper work, Hoffman also manages a functional parish database that tracks which sports are signed up for and how many students signed up for them. She also handle the coach orientations for each sport and before every season - a process she takes very seriously.

"All of our coaches are held to a high standard, and we then expect all of our coaches to hold their players and athletes to a high level as well."

The Crusaders (Perpetual Help's mascot) offer ten team sports (fooball, volleyball, basketball, swimming, cross country, cheerleading, soccer, tennis, track and field, and golf) and used to offer an 11th, wrestling, before a lack of interest did away with the team.

OLPH recently had great success with its basketball teams, as four of the seven participating school squads reached the New Albany Deanery tournament championship game in southern Indiana.

Those teams, along with students who have found recent success in fine arts, science fairs, and miscellaneous academic endeavors, will be honored during a school/parish-wide ceremony on Feb. 18.

In correlation with the regular team sports for the older student-athletes, OLPH also offers leagues for its younger participants including a basketball league open only to parishoners ages Pre-K to second grade, as well as a first and second grade flag football league.

"These leagues and teams are not as competitive, but are more for fun and giving the younger students a chance to be active outdoors and exercise," says Hoffman.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help has the majority of its day-to-day business decisions decided upon by Athletic Director Tom Murphy and the Youth Ministry Athletic Committee. Hoffman says that the YMAC's main goal is to staff games and events so that parents don't have to miss out on their children's activities by working or volunteering at the same time.

"Our goal is to have the parents in the stands and having the chance to watch their kids play the sport," said Hoffman. "We have a big family atmosphere in everything we do here and like to encourage that. Some of the parents of the sixth grade basketball team even arranged and hosted 'decorating parties' recently to make signs and posters for the boys and (help dress up the gym for practices)."

Another member of the OLPH family is the Crusaders' "sister school," Our Lady of Providence High School, which is just down the road. Providence, who hosts the local elementary basketball championship games, has embraced Perpetual Help and has created a direct pipeline between the two schools in a number of ways.

"We try to feed right into their athletics program," said Hoffman. "We are very connected with what is going on there and they are great about taking care of our teams. They even give free tickets to all of our students for all the home (Pioneer) football games. OLPH has the most parishoners at Providence and they're a great Catholic school that we're connected with."

Hoffman, who was born in St. Louis, MO and has been with OLPH for a year and a half, has a definite idea about the athletic environment that is maintained within the school and parish, and says that it takes the effort of everyone involved to make sure that happens.

"Sports need to be fun and it needs to be life-giving," said Hoffman. "The atmosphere we create should be one of encouragement, excitement, and be Christ-centered. The interactions that hte kids receive on our campus is all of the above and much more. We want to make sure that they find a caring person that is not only going worry about how they performing on the court, but also how they are doing in the classroom. Or how things are going in their life. This is a total family atmosphere."

And this approach has had outstanding success.

Of the nearly 325 students at OLPH, 92 percent of them are currently active in athletics in some capacity. Perpetual Help's Principal, Terry Horton, is also active in the athletic realm of the school and Hoffman says that Horton leads by example.

"There's not a day when I'm in the school that I don't talk to Principal Horton," said Hoffman. "She wants to know how things are going and tries to make sure she is present at basketball games, volleyball games, and so on."

OLPHS has its own gymnasium that is dedicated completey to Crusader athletics from 3-11pm during the week, as well as a full-length football field on campus that also converts into a pair of full-length soccer fields, depending on the event, game or season.

Of the aforementioned coaches, who OLPH take great pride in, several have been with the program for a long time. Bob Dallmann, 5th & 6th basketball coach, has been with the Crusaders for over 30 years and Jerry Cline, 7th & 8th grade basketball coach, has guided one of the Crusader squads all the way to a state championship.

Hoffman and Co. are well on their way to continued success on the athletic courts and fields in New Albany and are certainly helping to influence the culture of sportmanship, character and family.

For more information on Our Lady of Perpetual Help and its athletic program, you may visit: http://www.olphna.org/school/athletics.php


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