May 22nd, 2015

Hyland's Heroes: Greg Willett

Sarah Newell

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Greg Willett
Greg Willett and family / photo courtesy of the Willett family

The following feature is a part of a bi-weekly series, sponsored by Hyland Insurance. "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

My wife Angela and I have been a lifelong Catholics and have four kids. Amber will be a senior and Megan will be a freshman at Mercy thiscoming year. Tyler will be a seventh grader and Haylee will be a first grader at St. Nicholas Academy. 

I have always coached something since I was 18 years old.  I love basketball and have coached that for most of the last 30 years but I have also coached football, baseball, and slow and fast-pitch softball. Coaching has lead me to participate on athletic boards for the organizations I have been involved with. Time permitting my other hobbies would include fishing, vacationing, and working in my own yard. My kids are always up to some sport or another so we are plenty busy.

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

Why so?  I started with the CSAA many years ago as a 10 year old basketball player for St. Elizabeth of Hungary School in 1977 but that was just
because I wanted to play. I started coaching in 1984 because I was asked and I thought it would be fun and realized real quickly that watching the kids learn the skills of the game made me want to teach it even more and more to kids.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved? 

Jerry Just mentioned to his brother Glenn that I might be interested in helping coach a sixth grade #2 team at St. Elizabeth which was basically fourth and 5th graders and the rest is history.

What sports are you involved in and for how long? 

I started at St. Elizabeth in 1984 until it closed and became St. Rose, for a combined 13 years.  Then I coached at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, my new home parish after getting married for five years before it became St. Nicholas Academy and now I have been there 10 years.  I also coached at the YMCA and Fairdale Youth league. Many years ago I coached several basketball teams at once. I coached baseball at Germantown and then at OLMC for a combined 7 years.  I coached slow pitch softball at St. Elizabeth, St. Rose and then more recently switched to fast pitch with my daughter Megan playing.  In addition I coached football for Germantown Catholic and then two years at St. Nicholas, while my son played.

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

I think competition plays a huge role in teaching all of us how to play a role and in doing so become better people and that certainly is what our faith calls on us to do. I know I have made mistakes and there were times I should have handled things differently, but I have owned those mistakes and tried to spin it into a positive. Giving of my time to others is really a somewhat selfish act as I certainly have learned as much about me as I have about those students I have worked with by giving of self.  I think the relationship with church, school, and sport works best when the kids see their teachers and priests supporting them on the field and their coaches supporting them in school.

Who was the most influential person on your volunteer role? Why?

I guess that would have to be my mom. She was always willing to help others and even though she stayed and continues to stay more in the background you always knew she was someone depended on by others. Sometimes that was in family, church, or work relationships, but she was there for people.  My way is different than hers but hopefully just as effective.

What are your major themes/principles as a volunteer? 

Keep the kids first would be my primary principle. Teach them all from the most athletic to the least and give them the confidence to stay with it and get better.  This is as important as a board member as it is to a coach, because that is why we are there and without the kids we all would be less inspired to carry on. Hey, we all get lost in the winning and losing but we can keep grounded if we keep the kids first.

What does your athletic role at the school bring to you, your family? 

I have trouble sitting back and watching if I can contribute anything. I get a huge lift getting to know the students, teachers, parents, administrators, and coaches that are involved in our kids lives.  My family, by my involvement, gets to be more well-rounded in all aspects of the faith community we all are a part of and hopefully my kids will give back in their own way one day. My wife, Angel, may have a different take on this when I stay late or leave early to attend a function or game but she has always been supportive.

What are the fondest experiences or memories you have as a volunteer? 

There are so many fond memories over the years, but for me it is the now adults who I coached as kids who come up to me and tell me some of the old stories. It is always nice to hear I had a positive influence on them, but actually just an acknowledgement that they recognize me is enough to warm my heart. Secondly, I can never get enough of watching a kid improve to the point that they run over to their parents afterward and say to them, "Did you see that?” with a big smile. Other than that a heartfelt thanks from a young player after a hard fought game or season helps the now aging coach keep going.


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