September 27th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Susan Willinger

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Susan Willinger
photo from Susan Willinger

Love of children and sport brings out best in volunteer

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

Susan Willinger plays many roles for St. Stephen Martyr parish. The Catholic School Athletic Association will see her in the office now and then taking care of some details for her job as gym manager, but she also spends time coaching teams for their school as well. This season she is working with the 4th grade volleyball team. Along with her role as a teacher, Susan stays very busy while maintaining an active parish life. Susan is a SSM gal and graduated from Mercy Academy where she played on their golf, swimming and tennis teams.


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

I worked as a teacher at SSM for one year. The summer following that year I was asked by a member of the athletic board (whose son I had taught that year) to be the gym manager for the league games on the weekends. When I started it was the fall of 2007. I was asked because it was a big job that was hard to manage for people with children.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved?

The athletic board at SSM, specifically Ron Jolly, who offered my name when trying to find someone that they thought, would be good for the job.

What sports did you coach and for how long?

I was the assistant coach for 3rd and 4th grade basketball for two seasons, was the assistant coach for girls 8th grade volleyball, head coach for boys 6th grade volleyball for one season, and am now currently coaching 4th grade girls volleyball.

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

By coaching these students and working the gym, I am more a part of my parish community. I feel that working with children was important for Jesus and we are to live as He did.

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

My mom! She coached me several years in volleyball and taught me never to give up and try new things. She encouraged me to try swimming the first year it was offered at Mercy. I took her advice and that soon became my favorite sport. She showed up to EVERY game that we played including long trips around the country.

What are your major themes/principles as a coach?

Start and end with a prayer to show thanks for the ability to be able to play and be together. Every child should get a fair opportunity to play. Work hard to achieve the goals that the team has set and that each individual has set.

What does coaching bring to you, your family?

Coaching brings me a sense of leadership. It brings out my love for children and athletics.

What are the fondest experiences or memories you have of coaching?
My fondest memory was the year I coached volleyball for the boys. They were a great group of students whom I had previous taught in school for three years. We bonded in a different way other than teacher and student. They might not have had a winning record, but they won games which they had told me they never had before. Our first win was awesome for me and the boys because of that.



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