January 24th, 2014

Hyland's Heroes: Mike Spencer

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Mike Spencer
Mike Spencer is standing / photo submitted by the Spencer family

The following feature is a part of a bi-weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland. "Hyland's Heroes" is a series of profiles that 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 editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

It’s a funny thing that this basketball season has been one of the coldest and “snowiest” in recent history. But we can only imagine that this is nothing but a heat wave for a native from Alaska.

Our highlighted coach this week hails from Wasilla, Alaska - the hometown of Sarah Palin. Mike Spencer is now a firmly transplanted and “near” native Kentuckian. He’s the eighth grade boys’ basketball coach for St. Edward School – and those credentials alone can mark one as a true Kentuckian.

Mike came to Louisville to attend college at the University of Louisville where he may have thought he was coming to the “deep south.” Mike married his wife Dawn and they are proud parents of Hailee and Drew.

Their children have enjoyed sports, playing Football, Field Hockey and Basketball. The kids interest helped propel Mike into his role as “coach.” A role he truly enjoys. Their team is in the highly competitive AA division and might be a contended in the CSAA tournament.

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

I started coaching at St. Edward six years ago when my son started playing basketball at St. Edward.  I wanted to be involved and coaching seemed like a fun way to do get to know his classmates and their families.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved? 

The parish athletic ministry was seeking volunteers for their time and talents.  It was an easy choice!

What sports did you coach and for how long?

I have been coaching youth basketball for schools, optimist clubs, or AAU teams for the past 11 years.

What's the connection with your faith (stewardship) & giving your time to young student athletes? 

Being a coach and mentoring a youth is an extremely powerful responsibility.  Student Athletes look up to you as an example of how to be “servant leader”. Molding the spiritual make up of your youth through sports is a relatable and effective way of bettering your community.

Who was the most influential person on your coaching career? Why? (Could be former coach, parent, teammate, spouse)

Fellow CSAA coach Dave Burns from John Paul II Academy.  My son had the pleasure of playing optimist youth football for David.  I admired how he is able to carefully and effectively balance the teaching of fundamentals, being competitive, yet still put a premium on it being fun for everyone on the team!

What are your major themes/principles as a coach?  

Work hard at being better today than you were yesterday: and to respect the game, your teammates and opponents. 

What does coaching bring to you, your family?

It has provided a great sense of togetherness.  I have made what I hope will be lifelong relationships with the families, and I have a collection of memories I would not trade for anything.  This experience has shaped me and my family in ways that cannot be measured by a scoreboard.

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

I have had the pleasure of coaching some great kids.  We have had a ton of fun throughout the years.  There have been some big shots, exciting wins, and hours of practice that provided wonderful memories.  However, the moment that really put it into perspective was when one of my eighth grade athletes asked me to write a letter of recommendation for high school. 

Knowing that I was able to develop a relationship with a young man, and that he thought enough of me to ask for this, told me I was reaching my team in ways above and beyond the game.


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