August 30th, 2012

Hyland's Hero: Susan Gerstle

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Hero: Susan Gerstle
photo from Susan Gerstle

Coach follows mother's teachings

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

The Catholic School Athletic Association Girl’s Volleyball league began play August 25th with “first timers” and “old timers” coaching, playing and parenting. While some learned a bit of the game from viewing the Olympics on television, others, who have been around for awhile – like Susan Gerstle from Holy Trinity School – begin another new season “ready to go.”

As a youngster, Susan played for St. Margaret Mary, she proceeded to play at Sacred Heart Academy, and because the game allows, she continued to participate in the sport. As a wife (to Mark) and the mother of four—Andrea, Michael, Patrick and Mary, who have all played the sport themselves—Susan has remained fresh with the sport and continues to volunteer her time teaching the game she loves.

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

I started coaching when I was 15 years old. I am a graduate of St. Margaret Mary, and was a student at SHA. I loved volleyball, and enjoyed working with the kids. 

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved? 

My mother got me involved. I traveled on weekends with her when she played volleyball and softball.  She was active in starting the volleyball program at SMM. I got involved at Holy Trinity once my children got there.

What sports did you coach and for how long?

I coached cheerleading for 1 year at SMM, and coached volleyball there for 2 years. (Until they changed the requirement – to coaches being 18 years of age) I have been coaching volleyball at Holy Trinity for 15 years. I have also coached basketball at Holy Trinity off and on for 15 years.

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

I believe that all of these young student athletes desire to fit in and are searching for their place. I give my time and talent to teach them how the game is played and that being involved in sports provides so many things. Volleyball can be played at any level as you grow older. You do not need to be the best of the best to play. We all need to learn to “play well” with others in all aspects of our lives. I hope that the athletes learn how to treat others as they would want to be treated whether it is by being good losers or good winners.

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

My mother was the most influential person. My mother has played multiple sports all of her life. I grew to love “playing” and helping others learn to play. It is good and fun to be competitive, but to also keep in mind that it is okay to lose. Losing makes us strive to be better. Mom always made us think about what we needed to do to push to the next level.

What are your major themes/principles as a coach?  

I would say that every player matters. There will always be those that stand out as the better players. As a longtime coach, you are able to see something in all the players. I think our job is to find each player’s gift and help them realize it. Find a way for each player to excel. Even if it is just one spot on the court or field.  Every player should feel they are a part of the win or loss.

What does coaching bring to you, your family? 

Coaching takes hours away from my family. It is a sacrifice, but it is well worth it. Our children are learning to give to others. They are learning to share their talents and time just as I share mine. All of our older children have volunteered in different ways with children at Holy Trinity. I hope that they continue as they are entering adulthood.

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

The first would be when I was helping with coaching a 5th and 6th grade girls’ basketball team. We were in the quarter finals of the CSAA tournament.  The score was tied at 0 in the 4th quarter. My daughter scored (for the first time in a CSAA game) the first basket. It was so exciting! We ended up losing 4 to 2.  The girls were heartbroken, but it was a wonderful game.

The first time one of my 3rd and 4th grade volleyball teams gets a pass, set, and spike is always exciting!

I will always remember how lucky I was to have helped coach a young lady that touched my heart. She passed away many years ago, but she was a wonderful influence on me and her fellow players and other coaches. She had her own style and was accepted for who she was. She was a wonderful basketball player, and will always hold a place in this coach’s memory.


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