September 5th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Dario Saldana

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Dario Saldana
Coach Saldana talking to his young harriers before a race / photo by Lori Hadorn Disselkamp

Cross Country coach serves students with a minister's touch

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

Dario Saldana is a familiar face around the Catholic School Athletic Association Cross Country and Track programs. St. Bernard is lucky to have this native of New Mexico working with their sports program - a man who is rarely seen without a smile on his face.

Growing up in Sunland Park, NM, he attended Gadsden HS and participated in both Cross Country and Track. Now married to Kathy and the father of Melissa, Steven, Matthew, Chris and Rachel, Dario has seen them play other sports but definitely track and cross country has dominated their interest.

In the spring when you hear a pleasant voice announcing events and cheering participants at the CSAA track meet, you can be assured it is Dario.

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

I started in1999 at St. Bernard as a cross country assistant. I wanted to be an active member of the parish and sports was a good way to keep myself involved while being around my kids

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved?

I saw that the track coach needed help so I offered my services.

What sports did you coach and for how long?

I started with helping with cross country and track. I then put together the first girls soccer team when my daughter was in 4th grade. I have been involved with track and cross country either as an assistant or a head coach since 1999. I coached my daughter in soccer for three years, my son Chris for two years, and my son Matt for three years. I also coached my daughter Rachel’s basketball team for one year and assisted for another year.

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

My coaching is my stewardship. It means everything to me. I am a Homebound Eucharistic minister, Eucharistic minister, Hospitality minister, Booster president for four years and booster member for 13 years. Coaching is my way of connecting with the young kids and Homebound Eucharistic ministry connects me with our older parishioners. I like connecting both because this is my way of giving to the St. Bernard community.

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

My parents have had the most influence on my coaching ministry. Although they never got to see me run when I was growing up because they were working, their wonderful outlook on life and how they lived their lives guided by God helped mold my outlook as well. My kids that I coach also influence me every day. Their unbridled enthusiasm keeps me going. Finally, but not the least influential, is my wife. Her faith in God is so powerful and she lives this love as a wonderful friend, spouse, and mother. If I did not have her understanding my coaching ministry would not be as meaningful.

What are your major themes/principles as a coach?

I do not coach running or sports, I coach character. My approach is that I want to teach each of my athletes that they are special whether or not they can run. I emphasize to them and the parents that I really do not care if we ever win a championship or medals. It is more important to teach the kids that they have gifts that God has given them and it is up to me to teach them to honor God by recognizing these gifts and to give back to Him.

I teach relaxation and breathing, eating right, proper technique, and taking care of your body. I include parents and siblings in our conditioning and make it a family adventure. God has allowed me to enjoy unbelievable success because he has provided wonderful kids that are all gifted. All I do is help a little. I emphasize that they should be humble in their wins and gracious in their losses. We are a low key program at St. Bernard and enjoy the anonymity.

What does coaching bring to you, your family?

I coached an AAU/USATF team for 6 years. We spend our vacation traveling with the whole family to state, regional, and National track and cross country meets. I continue to work on earning my respect from my kids and want to give them a role model so that they can participate and be active when their time comes. My wife’s patience and support especially with late practices and late meals and busy weekends, has been incredible. I know that I could not do it without her support.

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

I do enjoy winning but I do not emphasize it. If you keep expectations realistic then any success is greatly enhanced and enjoyed more. When some of my runners can finally finish not only a workout but a race, this is the most rewarding aspect of coaching. My job is to prepare the kids so that as they go on into high school and beyond, more experienced and knowledgeable coaches will have kids that get it. I also like to share the Eucharist with my athletes when we have a team mass. Seeing their eyes as I place God’s body into their hand, I know that at that very moment we are in communion with God. It touches my spirit.


Recent Articles