May 11th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Karen Draper

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Karen Draper
photo from

Draper looking forward to growing tennis in CSAA

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

Growing up in the small St. Basil parish community, Karen Draper was grateful for all of the opportunities she received there as a young student athlete. She played basketball and ran track at St. Basil and even served as a cheerleader there. She played field hockey during her high school years at Angela Merici.

As our Hyland’s Heroes feature story this week, Draper has taken those athletic experiences and put them to use in her volunteer coaching jobs at Our Lady of Lourdes and at St. Margaret Mary. Though she is a relative newcomer to the coaching scene—translation: she hasn’t coached one sport at one school for a decade or longer—she has worked with hundreds of student athletes and that number soon will be growing.

Whether serving as a field hockey coach, tennis coach or leading a soccer clinic, this mother of three has given ample time and energy to working with those kids on her teams. And she also is introducing a new element to help foster and develop young tennis players in Louisville as well as the CSAA.

“I coached field hockey at Lourdes for a few years with my youngest (daughter) Aubrey playing, but I played field hockey for Angela Merici before anyone had ever heard of it,” Draper mentioned with a laugh. “And I coached soccer for several years in the clinics that the Catholic schools offered. It is truly amazing how many sports are offered by the CSAA and how so many sports have become year-round activities.”

The Draper’s three children, Colin, Isaac and Aubrey, all grew up playing sports either at Lourdes and/or St. Margaret Mary. Colin is a freshman at UK and a St. X graduate and though he played every sport that he could in grade school, he passed on sports in high school. Isaac is at Manual where he’s played football, basketball and track. Aubrey is a year-round field hockey player and a member of the team at St. Margaret Mary.

“All kids should have an opportunity to play,” Draper stated. “I really struggle watching kids just sit the bench and not get much out of a team sport, it’s a pet peeve of mine. I do want kids to know that they have to earn their place, take practicing their sport seriously and show that they’ve an interest in whatever we’re doing. At this level, they all need to be playing and they all need a chance to experience competition. We had 27 or so kids on the field hockey team at Lourdes and they all played at least a quarter whether they were brand new to the sport or the best player on the team.

“I was always conscious of the fact that a few really good players can control a game,” she continued. “But the kids change so much through their growth and development that they just peak (athletically) at different times. They may be more compatible with one coaching style over another or one sport over another. You just can’t assume that an athletic kid will excel at all sports.”

The foundation of her coaching is always on developing the fundamentals first and making sure the youngsters on her team are physically fit. She is a big proponent of getting kids active and learning about fitness.

“The kids have to work hard at learn the fundamentals of their sport,” she said. “And they have to be physically fit. A lot of kids don’t like to put the time into doing that or doing things like running on their own that may help them. But that’s really what it takes because we don’t have a whole lot of time to devote to conditioning at our practices. They have to be motivated to get fit for their lives. I talk about it with the field hockey players that they have to cover the whole field and run down the opposition, especially switching from offense to defense.”

With her recent appointment as the USTA Coordinator for their 10 and under tennis programs in Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt counties, Draper is excited about integrating what she is doing with that program into the CSAA. At a recent pilot program, Draper held a clinic for kids 10 and under from St. Albert, Holy Trinity and St. Margaret Mary schools. She said that about 125 kids came out to learn some of the basics about tennis.

“We were given a grant to help grow the game of tennis in Louisville and the surrounding areas,” she said. “We have the youngest kids playing sideways, across the width of the tennis court and the 9 and 10 year olds play on a court that is a little smaller than regulation. They play with tennis balls that move slower and bounce lower than normal tennis balls in order for the kids to develop their swing patterns, their footwork and how to cover the court. We’re trying to make the game more kid-friendly.”

With the interest strong, Draper sees a great opportunity with taking tennis to the youth of the CSAA.

“There’s a middle school league in the CSAA,” she said. “But what were finding is that there are younger kids playing in that league who may be too young or not have the necessary experience to play. We want to work with those youngest kids and help them develop from those early ages.”


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