November 21st, 2013

Hyland's Heroes: Don Kohler

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Don Kohler

The CSAA basketball season is about to embark on its 2013-2014 schedule. The month of December will kick off the first 3 weeks of the season as it all culminates with the February tournament finals.

Many teams will soon be participating in holiday jamborees and tournaments. However, one of the CSAA’s fastest growing groups is the high school basketball program where teens who are not playing on their school teams participate in league play. The Intermediate program now has an energetic new director, Don Kohler.

Don has graduated through the CSAA ranks, beginning as an interested volunteer to now serving in his new position as the Intermediate Basketball Director. He attended St. Francis in the Fields Elementary and Ballard High School, where he played many sports throughout the year - Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer and Golf. He’s still working on perfecting his golf game.

Don attended Miami University and settled back in Louisville where he met and married his wife, Ann. They have one son, Donnie, who attends St. Xavier. Don never participated in the CSAA program until his son took an interest in sports while in kindergarten at Holy Trinity and he’s been with the program from that day. The CSAA is pleased to have his energy and enthusiasm in support of its basketball program.   

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

I spent my summers from 1981 through 1987 helping grade school and middle school boys learn how to properly navigate a canoe through the whitewater rivers of western North Carolina. Youth Leadership seemed to come easily to me. Patience is a must and, for whatever reason, God blessed me with the patience of Job. Because I am still such a kid at heart, offering my skills is easy for me.  

In 2002 I went to my first Holy Trinity Booster meeting and the Executive Committee elected me K-2 Soccer Coordinator. I’m pretty sure I “won” the election because no one else wanted to do it and I happened to be the lone Kindergarten representative at that meeting. The previous K-2 soccer coordinator did a fantastic job with it but wanted to move on. This position was a steppingstone to AD, a position I held for seven years. I now serve as a co-coordinator for Holy Trinity basketball, and recently I volunteered to serve as the Intermediate Basketball Coordinator for the CSAA.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved? 

The Booster president was Don Eisner and the AD was Tim Feger. Both had very athletic and active daughters involved in the Holy Trinity sports programs but both had the ability to steer clear of focusing just on the elite athletes. When I was elected AD several years later I never forgot that single point. The elite athletes seem to thrive in whatever athletic environment they encounter. Making that possible for ALL kids is what drives me as a coach and administrator.

What sports did you coach and for how long?

At first I only coached teams for my son. I coached soccer K-4, basketball K-7 (he fired me his 8th grade year), flag football 1-4, and baseball 4-6. Since my son finished sixth grade in 2009, I have been a non-parent coach for one of our sixth grade boys’ basketball teams. 

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

Parish life is all about Community. My favorite Deacon, Walt Jones, is always preaching to us to “do the next right thing.” Whether I’m acting as a coach of ten young boys or in my former capacity as AD, (making decisions that affect 750 parish members), I always ask myself “what is the right thing?”

The sports programs at the various parishes around the Archdiocese are great in helping parish members share in the Community of our faith. Adding to the sense of Community via athletics is not only valuable, it’s fun for me.

Who was the most influential person on your coaching career? Why?
This is easy. Nath Thompson was the owner and director of Camp Carolina in Brevard, NC where I spent summers as a camper and counselor. He preached good citizenship and respect and made a difference in the lives of everyone associated with the camp. He also taught me something I continue to teach to all my players – how to shake hands. It doesn’t seem to help free throws go in or presses to work, but to this day whenever I shake someone’s hand Nath’s image pops into my brain. I’d call that influence. Sadly, Nath died earlier this month. 

What are your major themes/principles as a coach?  

  1. It’s the parents’ job to register their sons this year; however, it’s MY job to make sure they register next year. 
  2. It is possible to learn and have fun at the same time. 
  3. You can always play good defense, even when your shots aren’t falling.
  4. Shoot when you’re open. 
  5.  I can learn too.

What does coaching bring to you, your family?

My son is interested in coaching youth basketball, so maybe one day we’ll do this together. My wife will come to several games each year as well. They both get to listen to me rant in the evening about what went right or wrong at practice or in a game. They’re pretty sure I’m crazy. They’re also very generous with my time, something for which I’m not good at expressing gratitude.

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

When I coached my son’s Kindergarten soccer team, one of the girls on the team always wore a watch to practice. I asked her why she told me she wanted to know how long it would be until practice was over.  For such a simple statement, it has powerful meaning. 


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