May 24th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Ron Cole

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Ron Cole
photo from Ron Cole

Life coaching as important to Cole as basketball coaching

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

Sometimes a parent can end up walking into a situation and understand immediately that they’re needed. That is the case for this week’s Hyland’s Heroes feature, Ron Cole, basketball coach at St. Gabriel.

Ron Cole ventured into coaching at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel when he took his stepsons Donnie and Chris to tryouts for the 7th/8th grade basketball team. As luck would have it, they only had enough coaches for four teams, but they had enough players to field five teams. The math didn’t add up.

“Instead of the athletic director telling about 10 kids that they had to go home and couldn’t play because they didn’t have enough coaches, I decided to take the plunge and coach that group of kids,” recalled Cole. “I didn’t want to be a parent who just watched from the stands or dropped off their kids. I wanted to do something about that and that’s how I got started coaching.”

And he hasn’t stopped since. He coached basketball at OLMC until their merger in 2006. He even took a four year stint of coaching his step-daughter Jill in softball at OLMC. Again, as luck would have it, a conversation led him to becoming a member of the coaching staff at St. Gabriel, where he’s coached since 2006. For Cole, it was more about recognizing a need for coaches and mentors for young student-athletes and filling that need with his positive approach.

“I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m making a positive contribution to these youngster’s lives,” he said. “These kids who are 10, 11, 12 years old in the 5th and 6th grades (the team he coaches), they’re at a point in their lives where they’re learning about and just coming into an age of accountability. They’re learning the difference between right and wrong. And you don’t always know how solid their backgrounds may be, but I’m going to emphasize to them the priorities in life. God is number one; their family is number two; their schoolwork is number three. At the highest, basketball is number four on that priority list.”

While his teams have racked up their share of wins and championship honors, wins and losses are not the priority for Cole in his coaching. He tends to measure wins and losses in the future successes of the kids he’s coached.

“I talk to my kids throughout the year about life issues: the importance of their school work, how to treat girls, being respectful to their parents and several other life lessons,” he said. “I consider myself a life coach, not just a basketball coach. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of that and that’s why I continue to coach even long after my kids have moved on from elementary school.”

While he developed his style at OLMC, he carried that life-coaching approach with him to his coaching position at St. Gabriel. Cole is friends with the McGinty family and when St. Gabriel athletic director Kyle McGinty came calling for a coach, Cole gladly filled the role.

“They asked me to coach at St. Gabriel and I thought it would be a great move as my kids were long gone from Mt. Carmel and my wife Donna and I had moved to the eastern part of the county,” he said. “The commute was a lot more manageable and it seemed like a good fit, especially coaching with Kyle as my assistant.”

Cole and his family grew up in St. Helen parish, but he wasn’t involved in sports then as he was too small to play. If you know him now, you’d think that he would have played all his life.

“I was too small to play then,” he laughed at the memory. “But I’m 6’3”, 265lbs now, but when I was in grade school I was no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. I was the fifth of seven kids, and the only one in the family to play sports. I started getting bigger and played ball at Western high school. I wanted to attend Bishop David, but my family couldn’t afford it.”

Cole’s a physical therapist and still maintains the zeal for coaching. While getting a new group of kids to work with every year may present new challenges, he welcomes the opportunity to have a positive effect on every player he has coached. With his wife Donna’s support, and sometimes her assistance, his desire to coach is as strong as ever.

“We’re using a team sport to teach these kids about life,” he stated. “Some of the lessons they can take from the court into their life is that they need to rely on other people to get the job done. Nobody in basketball can do it by themselves and you can’t live a life by yourself. Everybody on that team has a leader, the coach, and no matter what you do in life you’re going to have a boss. Even as an independent businessman you still have God as an authority over you. The main thing I want the kids to understand is that you win with teamwork. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, your character will show when nobody is watching you.”

Those are just a few of the prime examples that Cole and his coaches emphasize with their players. Sportsmanship is another of those qualities that is high on the list of qualities he stresses with his young student athletes.

“Their opponents may someday be their high school teammates, or doing science projects with,” he mentioned. “The way you behave now is going to determine the way you behave later in life so filling that foundation with strong values is important. I try to get them to understand how to look ahead in their life in order to grow and mature.”


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