April 21st, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Jill Burckle

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Jill Burckle
photo from Jill Burckle

Burckle's behind the scenes work helps hundreds of swimmers

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero”? Send your recommendation to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

Rousing kids for early morning swim practices and spending countless hours attending swim meets all over the world was, and is, standard operating procedure for this week’s Hyland’s Heroes feature. But her labor of love with swimming has its roots right here in Louisville with the CSAA.

Jill Burckle is the mother of 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and Sacred Heart Academy graduate Caroline. Her son Clark, a St. Xavier graduate, is well on his way to becoming a member of the 2012 Olympic swim team.

But this story isn’t about Caroline and Clark and their Olympic experiences or potential to make the 2012 team. This story focuses on their mother, who works behind the scenes to help so many others achieve their potential in the water. All three of the Burckle children, including the youngest Collin, attended Sacred Heart Model School and Jill has been one of those team moms that supports the kids in any way she could.

“I’ve always been more of a behind-the-scenes type when it comes to the (swim) teams,” Burckle stated. “We have some very talented parents who coach the team and I just try to support them with communicating to everyone, ordering tee shirts and those sorts of supporting roles. I just try to keep track of the people involved and make sure that everyone gets taken care of. The Model school team ranges from 80 to 100 kids at all levels of swimming ability.”

Jill was a promising tennis player growing up and her husband Chris was a swimmer. As members of Holy Spirit parish, they’ve worked to support their kids’ teams as well as the greater swim scene in Louisville. But it’s at Sacred Heart Model School where you’ll find her behind the computer, doing hundreds of team entries.

“This year I’ve been doing meet entries for the school, learning the Hy-Tek (computer) program and putting in what the coach wanted the kids to swim,” she said. “I learned a lesson from my very first job as a tennis professional at Hilton Head Island under the head professional who is now in charge of the USTA. He happened to be my first boss and instilled in me that I had to promote the sport in order to get people involved and that was how I was going to make a living: to get people involved.”

She sees a clear connection between those words of advice and what the CSAA does for Louisville’s Catholic elementary student-athletes.

“The CSAA is about getting kids involved,” she said. “It’s about getting kids involved across the board in whatever sport they have an interest in or potential in. And in some situations it’s about getting involved with their peers, too, because kids want to be with their friends and participate in the same activities and sports that their friends do.”

With the sheer volume of students the CSAA works with, Burckle appreciates the positive outcomes of these programs.

“We had over 800 swimmers competing in the CSAA this year,” she said. “And that’s just Catholic school kids. Our team had 80+ kids participate in a school of just 200 or so students. Holy Trinity, St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary had even more kids on their teams. It’s an incredible event that takes a lot of help to put together. And I have to say that Bucky Stoess (CSAA Director of Swimming) has done a great, great job with it.”

From watching her two oldest develop and make U.S. international teams, to watching hundreds of local youths develop a life-long love for the sport, Burckle continues to try to cultivate the good that can come from the sport.

“It’s really fun to see kids make it to a level beyond high school,” she said. “Sometimes at the younger levels the competition can be taken too seriously, but we want to make sure we see the kids stay balanced. We’ve been blessed to have some stories and experiences to tell about our kids’ successes and swimming careers. When we get asked, we talk about the road that they’ve both traveled. Our kids were raised in Catholic schools and in a Catholic environment and those two things were critical to their growth and development in and out of the water. It’s the best way to raise a child.”

With Collin an avid golfer at SHMS, Burckle has added “golf mom” to her list of volunteer duties.

“Collin swims for fitness and recreation because there are so many more benefits to it than competing at a high level,” admitted Burckle. “But he really enjoys playing golf. He’s obsessed with it and loves it and I’m glad to help that team too. We had 37 kids go out for the golf team this year. It was just a clinic, but it’s still about twenty-five percent of the school population on our first attempt. I choose to volunteer for things that come natural to me. I love to promote an activity and get as many kids involved as possible.”

As for the swimmers that she’s supported for well over a decade, Burckle thinks that keeping it simple and keeping it fun are vital for success.

“You try to focus on what they do well and then show them how they can improve,” she said. “You want to figure out how to maximize their potential. The hardest thing to manage is when the goals of the parents are different from the goals of the kids. But most importantly, you want kids to love what they’re doing.”


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