May 4th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Kelly Cummins

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Kelly Cummins
photo from Kelly Cummins

Passion for coaching basketball keeps Cummins involved

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

The subject of this week’s Hyland’s Heroes feature finds coaching as a form of stewardship, a way of giving back to the Catholic community in which he was raised.

Kelly Cummins, the seventh and eighth grade head boys basketball coach at St. Martha, has been involved with the sports programs there for more than 20 years. He has taken on several roles with his affiliation from Athletic Director to head coach of several teams.

“I started out as the athletic director for three years in the early 90’s and I enjoyed that,” said Cummins. “But I didn’t enjoy it as much as directly working with kids as a coach. I started with the lower grades coaching football and basketball, and eventually settled with coaching basketball.”

In the last seven years, Cummins has led his St. Martha teams to four final fours and a city championship this past season.

A product of St. Bartholomew parish, Cummins was schooled on stewardship at an early age. He watched his parents volunteer in the choir and lector at the church as well as lead a Boy Scout troop, not to mention raising eight children. As the third of the eight children, Cummins acquired his strong work ethic directly from his parents’ examples. He was prompted to begin his work with St. Martha because of a stewardship pledge.

“When you’re in the church and they talk about stewardship, it makes you want to give back,” he said. “I always enjoyed coaching and being around athletics. When the athletic director’s job came open, I took that opportunity and coached at the time as well.”

He played football and basketball at St. Bartholomew and went on to play basketball at St. X (class of ’79) as well.

“My coach at St. Bartholomew was pretty demanding, but he gave a lot of his time to work with us and I always appreciated that,” said Cummins. “I learned a lot from him and from coach Hellmueller (his coach at St. X).”

Cummins sticks to the basics with his approach to coaching. “Do your job” is the mantra he remembers from coach Hellmueller and the importance of team over self is a theme that he passes to his players.

“Playing as a team and not an individual was something those coaches always told us,” said Cummins. “I love coaching basketball and have a real passion for it. I’ve worked for UPS for thirty years and they taught me a lot about leadership. I thought coaching would be a great way to give back and lead young kids.”

With his passion for the game, coaching has been a natural to him and his family. He and his wife Donna have three children who: Josh, who played football and basketball at St. X (class of 2003); Erin, who played volleyball and swam at Assumption (class of 2005); and Mark, who also played football and basketball at St. X (class of 2011). All three children attended St. Martha elementary.

His kids provided him his first opportunities to coach as all three were involved in athletics in their youth. And sometimes a coach can just click well with certain ages. It seems that Cummins has found his niche with 12 to 14 year old boys on the basketball court.

“The 7th and 8th graders are a great age group to coach because they’re getting ready to go to high school,” remarked Cummins. “And we get to instill in them the confidence to overcome any challenge thrown at them. We challenge them during the season about obstacles they will hit during the season and that they may encounter in high school. We want to prepare them well for their future and a lot of our kids want to play in high school. With that in mind, we try to make them aware of what they need to do to succeed at that level.”

He’s coached some very talented players, a few who have gone to play on the college level. And he’s most proud of how many of his players have moved on to play high school basketball in the area.

“When I think about coaching basketball, I think about coaching kids on and off the court,” he said. “You’re coaching them about the game of life. You’re teaching them to be aware of obstacles and how to overcome problems; how to prepare and give your best effort at all times. It’s the same way in life. With these values, we want to give them confidence to take on any challenge they may face.”

His simple demands of his players come from legendary coach Lou Holtz: do your best; do what’s right; and treat people the way you want to be treated.

“We teach them these simple principles not just for their basketball skill, but for their life off the court,” he said. “If they follow these three things, they’ll be successful in life in whatever they do.”

With his calm demeanor and successful methods, Cummins keeps in touch with his former players because they choose to keep in touch with him. Like many of us who fondly recall those influential teachers and coaches from our past, his St. Martha alumni do the same with him. Part of the reward of being a coach.

“They’ll call during Christmas and I’ll ask the older guys to come and talk to our players,” he said. “My assistant coach, Sean Carrico, was on the first team I coached at St. Martha. The challenge to mold a team every year is fun for me. Some parishioners and friends may say something about what they think the team will be like and it’s always a challenge to prove them wrong. We try to teach the kids the right way to play with the proper fundamentals because we want to help them grow throughout the year and beyond.”


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