August 2nd, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Joe Buechler

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Joe Buechler
image from

Joe Buechler on the run; promotes running at all levels

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

Joe Buechler attended kindergarten at Holy Spirit School, but his elementary academic world changed the next year and thereafter because the school did not have 1st grade. Joe, however, is a 3rd generation graduate of St. Xavier HS. He participated in swimming, tennis, baseball, basketball and golf; yet he found his niche when he connected with Frank Cooper, the track and cross-country coach at St. X.

Joe won two individual titles in both sports (track and cross country) during high school, attended Auburn University on a scholarship and continues running today – running physically, co-coordinating events and volunteering with the KHSAA. He’s married to Nancy and is father to two girls and one boy who are “running” all over his old records.

-- When and how did you get your start with the CSAA? Why so?

I got my start with the CSAA playing basketball for Holy Spirit in fifth grade (most of our games were at St Agnes - it seems as though the gym hasn’t changed much since then!). As an adult, I got involved in the fall of 2006 when the Buechler family returned to Louisville after a decade in Charlotte and Chicago and my kids started running cross country at Holy Spirit. I was pleasantly shocked by how many kids ran cross country in Louisville. It is a huge and still growing sport.

-- Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved? 

I signed my kids up for track their first year at Holy Spirit but there was no coach so I stepped in at the last minute.  In the fall, the long serving Holy Spirit cross country coach, Suzanne Klapheke, asked me to help out. She unfortunately passed away the following year and I became the head coach in that sport as well. Later I became the swim coach and joined the Holy Spirit Athletic Committee.

-- What sports did you coach and for how long?

I served as head coach for cross country, track and swimming for four to five years at Holy Spirit. I stopped coaching last year as I had children in two different CSAA schools competing in the same sports. I felt that I shouldn’t coach “against” any of them so I stepped aside.

In addition to coaching at Holy Spirit, I also helped coach the Sacred Heart Academy cross country and track teams for a couple of years and I still help coach the Derby City Athletic Club - a team of mostly Catholic grade school distance runners who want to run more frequently and consistently than just during the relatively short CSAA seasons. The Derby City team won the AAU national cross country championship in 2009 and was runner-up in each of the past two years.

-- What's the connection with your faith and giving your time to these young student athletes? 

I have had the good fortune to be a stay-at-home dad since our family’s return to Louisville so I had plenty of time on my hands. I wanted to be involved as much as possible with my children, their school and their activities. So the chance to coach my kids and their school teams in sports in which I had expertise and passion was a no brainer!

-- Who was the most influential person on your coaching career? Why?

My older brother Dave “blazed” the trail for me. While at St. X he won 3 state titles and our 5 year age difference made him a significant influence.

-- What are your major themes/principles as a coach? 

For all of my grade school athletes, I take a long term developmental view toward each of the sports. I want the kids to enjoy running and swimming and continue with it for the rest of their lives not just for a few years. I still run most Sunday mornings with several of my high school cross country teammates - more than thirty years after graduation - and I hope some of these kids will want to do something similar! 

I try to make all of these activities reasonably fun so we run on trails, in parks, on golf courses and other locations. We incorporate running games such as capture the flag, tag, relay races and several other activities as opposed to just going for five mile runs or doing repeat 200s (although we do plenty of those as well).

Second, since performance is easily quantifiable in these sports, I try to keep everyone motivated by frequently noting their improvements.....a personal best in the high jump or a new record in the mile or the 50 butterfly.

Finally, I like these sports to be social. I coached three cross country teams at the same time one year and it was great fun for all. There are usually a few other teams practicing at the same time as well and we tried to get to know each of them...then when kids went to a meet, they had competitors who were friends. I have tried to increase the competitive opportunities for the kids - particularly in track. When I started there were only two meets during the entire season.  Now there are about five or six - three of which I help put on.

-- What does coaching bring to you, your family? 

Coaching is a family affair for the Buechlers. My wife was assistant coach in most of these endeavors. All three children were frequently on the teams at the same time. So we’re able to enjoy as a family.  

-- What are the fondest experiences or memories you have of coaching? 

There are so many little things that just add up to make coaching a rewarding experience...the constant improvement of the athletes--some kids can’t run 200 yards when they first showed up but could easily run 3-4 miles by the end of a season—the fun of competition, and hopefully having some positive effect on the kids not only in their sport but in their dedication and approach to other activities as well. I was fortunate to have enough good athletes and supportive parents to win a few CSAA titles over the years but one of my favorite memories was my youngest daughter’s fourth grade cross country team taking the top four spots in the CSAA season ending meet.....a finish I’ve yet to see duplicated.


Recent Articles