March 11th, 2011

Elementary Excellence: St. Edward

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Elementary Excellence: St. Edward
photo by Chris Jung

Program sets the standard when it comes to regulation

The following feature is a part of a weekly series called "Elementary Excellence" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic elementary schools and its athletic programs, teams, traditions and excellence in all aspects of sports. Do you want your school to be featured? Send us your recommendation to

When a casual passerby thinks of St. Edward Elementary School athletics, chances are pretty good that "football" and "Toy Bowl titles" are the thoughts that generally come to mind.

And rightfully so.

Over the years, the Braves have built an exceptional football program that has enjoyed much success. Recently, one of the St. Edward football coaches was even invited to give a presentation at a Nike coaches clinic in downtown Louisville.

But to stop at football when discussing the vibrant SES athletic program would be a mistake.

Led by St. Edward Athletic Director Mandy Schaffer, the Braves have thrived through hard work, dedication to its roots, and a balance of success throughout multiple sports and programs, including a plethora of girls' teams at the school and within the parish.

Just over the past year, in fact, the following female squads have represented St. Edward with the utmost of pride:

  • 3rd & 4th grade “B” volleyball finished with a 6-1 record, despite a young team and new coaches
  • 3rd & 4th grade "A" basketball went undefeated
  • 5th & 6th grade girls cross country team, coached by Kenny Stottman, finished in second place in the city meet and hosts its own event at Charlie Vettiner Park; several members of this team have even gone on to compete for the Derby City running club in Louisville and competed in national events and meets
  • Gabrrielle Karas was named the Jefferson Co. Middle School Female Runner of the Year
  • Cheerleading continues to grow and thrive under Becky Seger, as the squad has placed high in several events

A member of St. Edward parish since 2005 and serving as the AD since July 2010, Schaffer says that she jumped right into the role because of her dual love of the students and of sports.

"My heart's pretty big for kids and athletes," said Schaffer. "I've grown up with sports."

Schaffer's statement that she has grown up in sports is an understatement. Her father, Charlie Ogle, ran the J'town Optimist Basketball League for 17 years and was an integral member of the athletic community in Jeffersontown. Schaffer's husband, Jimbo, is a St. Edward "lifer" who continues to give of us time to his alma mater and native parish.

St. Edward is run by an "athletic ministry board," opposed to the traditional booster club. Schaffer says the group of members in place now is exceptional, and that she has been passionate about keeping things fresh and moving in the right direction since she took the position of athletic director.

"Our athletic ministry has been outstanding since it was put together, but sometimes somebody new comes in and opens communication and has new ideas," said Schaffer. "When I came in I wanted to make things as good as possible and get people excited about getting involved."

One of Schaffer's biggest sounding boards is the person she refers to as her "tag team partner" - Assistant Athletic Director Doug Dawson.

"I couldn't do it without him," says Schaffer.

Dawson, who has been with St. Edward for five years, and converted to Catholicism four years ago through RCIA classes, has three children in the parish - all of which will be enrolled in the school at some level within the year, after his youngest joins the pre-school.

Of all their work together, the one common denominator that Schaffer and Dawson adamantly agree more than any other is the athletic ministry's utilization of the parish regulations that were written thoroughly when originally drafted. These tools have been so warmly received, that other parishes and athletic programs from around the city have adopted the St. Edward by-laws as their own. Sometimes even in straight verbatim form.

"Our common goal is the love and the passion of these kids," said Schaffer. "And I think we're very successful because of the people who came before me - who put these rules in place, who spent time to lay the foundation for athletics. We have three types that we regulate with: Athletic Ministry By-Laws, the Athletic Ministry Constitution, and the Athletic Ministry Rules and Regulations. And any type of possible issue or problem that we could have, it's written up in these (documents), which makes it easy for me."

Dawson says that these exceptionally-crafted documents and regulations keep things fair and balanced.

"Our by-laws include anything from compliance information to evaluation forms to various committees," said Dawson. “We’ve been told that area priests have contacted Father Joe and Kevin Ludwick to inquire about our regulations. We also have other systems in place, such as, coaching selection committees to keep things fair. Our player selection process for the teams  keeps everything even and honest and from becoming skewed. We treat everything we do with respect and candor, because these things have helped us get to where we are."

Another key player in the success of St. Edward's parish, specifically in athletics, is Pastor Joe Graffis.

Known as "Father Joe," Graffis is a sports fan who finds time to support the student-athletes. In some cases, Graffis can even be seen cheering right on the sideline, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the boys and girls during competition.

"He is very supportive and very grateful for the fact that we openly communicate with him so well," said Schaffer. "He is overwhelmingly busy and pulled in 500 directions, but if I ever tell him that I really need him at a meeting on a certain night, he makes it a point to make it there, even if he can only stay for ten minutes. His presence and approach sometimes sets the mood for the whole meeting, and sometimes he may not even talk about anything sports-related."

St. Edward is a parish of 2800 people and has been offering Mass from its current church building since 1960.


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