June 29th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Tom Lane

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Tom Lane
photo from Tom Lane

Sports anchor gives back to his Parish community

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.

You have no doubt seen this week’s Hyland’s Heroes feature. In fact, you may feel like you know him from watching him over the past 22 years as Sports Anchor at WDRB - channel 41. But to hundreds of St. Raphael student athletes, he’s been known simply as “Coach.”

Tom Lane moved to Louisville in 1990 and has firmly entrenched himself in the community and not just as a sports anchor. He and his wife Kathleen have been long-time members of St. Raphael parish. They both have been actively involved in a number of projects, though for Tom most notably as a coach of several St. Raphael sports teams for the past 16 years.

“I’ve started coaching at St. Raphael, like most of the coaches in the CSAA, by coaching my own kids,” Lane recalled. “I started with the sports that I thought I knew pretty well like basketball and that evolved into other sports that I didn’t know a lot about, but learned on the go. Soccer, field hockey, tennis and volleyball are sports that I had to learn to coach and it’s been a great experience for me.”

He started coaching basketball when his oldest child, son Thomas Joseph V (T.J.) was in the third grade. That job morphed into coaching several of his daughters’ teams. With Maggie and Hannah active in several sports, Lane’s ability to adapt and learn served him well. All three kids attended St. Raphael with TJ graduating from St. Xavier (class of 2010), Maggie graduating from Assumption (class of 2012) and Hannah a rising sophomore at Assumption.

As he pointed out, one personal trait that serves an elementary coach well, or any coach for that matter, is patience. And the proud Buffalo native has that in abundance.

“For me, coaching is a great way to give my time and my service to the community,” he said. “I didn’t grow up here, so I didn’t know much about the CSAA. But the more I got involved, the more I liked the mission of the organization. The CSAA is a really nice mix between your recreational teams and your club or competitive sports. You get a chance to be competitive, but you also are giving kids the chance to play.”

That opportunity to play is a consistent theme with Lane and his teams. No matter the skill level, he places an emphasis on giving all players the experience of contributing during the games.

“I’ve coached at all different levels in the different sports; the A team, the fourth team and all in between,” he said. “The way the CSAA runs their sports, it is a real benefit to have kids playing against other teams that are similar in talent and skill.”

With his wife’s encouragement and support, Lane sees coaching as a way to give back to the St. Raphael community.

“I loved sports growing up. It’s what I do for a living and it’s something I’m passionate about,” he remarked. “I’ve been able to pass that passion for sports on to some of my kids. While we’re not coaching future NBA players or superstars, we do have the ability to infuse the kids with the values of hard work, teamwork and all the good things that help kids in their lives.”

Having grown up in Buffalo where the Buffalo Sabres hockey club was and are an integral part of the community, Lane, a self-professed “not-so-great” skater, picked up street hockey. So it was just a natural fit for him to be a field hockey coach, right?

“People asked me, ‘what do you know about field hockey?’” he recalled with a laugh. “Well, I played a lot of street hockey and knew how to handle a stick. And now, there are so many ways to learn about sports online or through videos. Through my job, I had some access to certain high school and college coaches that I’ve covered over the years and tried to pick their brains to improve. I always told people that I know enough to be dangerous. And I certainly know that there’s always more to learn.”

While teaching the fundamentals of the sports he coaches is important to Lane, teaching Christian values is as important to his coaching mission. He aspires to instill those values in his players, always placing them ahead of winning. Coaching teams with his kids participating is an opportunity that Lane as taken advantage of in order to get to know them and their friends better.

“Coaching has given us a chance to be together and get closer as a family,” he stated. “It has been such a passion over the years and there were times when I thought I’d sit out a season or a year, but my kids always seemed to want me to be their coach. I was wary of being the coach that favors his children so I was almost always harder on them than I would be on any other kid.”

With his emphasis definitely on giving everyone an opportunity to play, Lane would take the time to explain to all players and parents that that was the main reason they were there and involved. To him, learning about the sport and the unique qualities of teamwork come best when all are involved and all get to experience it.

“You want it to be about winning and losing, but not at the expense of the kids,” he said. “I had a lot of long conversations with parents over the years about that topic. It is part of our mission to be inclusive and I think the better players can learn a lot by sitting on the sidelines and watching and encouraging their teammates who may not be as skilled or athletic. I try to make it the best experience possible for all the kids on the team.”

He admits that his winning percentage as a coach is probably not very good, but he tried to make a difference by sticking to his mission and not letting wins and losses take a higher priority than good values. And he cited his freshman basketball coach as someone he admired and who could always get the most out of his players. But to be able to coach his children is the lasting gift that he has received from his coaching mission.

“There are a number of things that I was fortunate to learn about my children through coaching them,” he said. “Most of it was seeing how they interacted with their friends and seeing them apply the lessons I was trying to impart like being empathetic to others or having a positive attitude with teammates. I got to know their friends as well. And with my wife’s support, we were on the same page with keeping things positive and giving everyone the opportunity to experience the values that come with team sports at St. Raphael.”


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