November 24th, 2011

Hyland's Heroes: Beth Wychulis

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer


Hyland's Heroes: Beth Wychulis
image from loucsaa.org

As athlete, coach and official, Wychulis has Hall of Fame career

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 editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

The lifeblood of any organization is the talent working for it and having that talent all working for a common goal. In the CSAA, creating an atmosphere of sportsmanship and fair play is foremost among their many directives. Educating, coaching and leading elementary aged student athletes in all levels and all sports is the standard they seek, but always with sportsmanship at the top of the list.

One of those former coaches/referees is the current, longstanding CSAA Director of girls basketball, Beth Wychulis. An outstanding basketball, volleyball and softball player, Wychulis is the only woman in Louisville high school history to be elected to two Hall of Fames as Assumption and Sacred Heart Academy have both bestowed her with that honor. She is still active as a high school volleyball referee.

“I played in the CSAA in grade school at St. Raphael,” Wychulis said. “I played volleyball, basketball and what used to be called mushball. We played on the asphalt and it was like softball, but it was with a mushy ball.”

Now that’s a game you don’t hear referred to often, but Wychulis was, by all accounts, a terrific and accomplished athlete. Volleyball, basketball, mushball; one would imagine that stickball and handball would have been easy for her, too. At Assumption she played added field hockey to her athletic resume. Her best sport? “Probably a toss-up between basketball and field hockey,” she admitted.

She still recalls fondly the days of six-on-six basketball.

“We played six on six, but my senior year we had rovers where two people could play both offense and defense,” she said. “It wasn’t until I started coaching that we went to five on a side.” She played every position during those days; a year of offense, two years of defense and her senior year as a rover. That is a strong tie to the traditions and history of the game.

Wychulis attended Western Kentucky University where she played intramural sports because WKU had no women’s athletic teams. Rest assured that if they did, she’d have been a part of them.

“I graduated from Western in 1969 and started coaching at Holy Rosary right after that,” she said. She coached volleyball, basketball and field hockey and was the sponsor for the cheer team. She’s been a volleyball referee since 1972 and still works the highly competitive Louisville area high school games today.

With Title IX taking effect in 1972, Wychulis has seen girls sports develop in the past four decades as a coach, referee and head of the CSAA girls basketball program.

“I thought it (Title IX) was fantastic, and that’s why I got involved in officiating,” she said. “It’s been amazing for girls sports and the opportunities my grandkids now have are amazing. When I was inducted into Assumption’s Hall of Fame a lot of the girls were talking about how excited they were about playing sports and how they felt they were the pioneers of the sport. And I told them that if they thought they were the pioneers then I was pulling the wagon because I refereed all of them that were inducted that night.”

Her greatest impact, perhaps, comes in her role as the girls basketball director of the CSAA. Her guidance and leadership through her many years of service has had an effect on thousands of Louisville’s girls basketball players.

From those who play just for fun, to those who have gone on to play in college and in the professional ranks throughout the country and the world, Wychulis’ demeanor and demands of sportsmanship have provided a solid foundation for those girls who have played in the CSAA basketball leagues.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I sat at home and did nothing,” she chuckled. “It’s a great thing to stay involved with the kids. My daughter Erin played basketball in grade school and volleyball in high school and my son Tim played football at Trinity. Erin’s and Tom’s kids attend St. Albert and play sports there. It’s fun to watch them.”

When asked about a preference between officiating and coaching, Wychulis didn’t hesitate on her answer.

“Officiating. I just feel like it’s an important part of the game,” she said. “It’s important to be seen and not heard and that’s the highest compliment an official can receive. And it’s a great livelihood. I love watching the grade school officials help teach the kids and coaches about the rules and about sportsmanship. If the kids can learn to play the proper way and the coaches model that behavior, it's as important as the proper skills to play the game. We're a Catholic organization and that is something we have to reflect.”

Coaching and officiating in the CSAA has come to define Wychulis in the community. Her long-term commitment to girls sports follows the footsteps of Kay Whelan and many others in the community.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world when kids you may not recognize come up to you and tell you how much you meant to them,” she says fondly. “But it’s wonderful to work with these young athletes and know you have an impact on them. It’s just like a big family.”

 

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