August 11th, 2011

Hyland's Heroes: Mike Meiners

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer


Hyland's Heroes: Mike Meiners
photo from St. Patrick's football Facebook page

Meiners passing on his good fortune to St. Pat's teams  

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.

Mike Meiners has one of those recognizable Louisville names; comes with the territory when you’re part of a family of 14 kids. You get to be known as “so-and-so’s brother”, or lumped in as “one of the Meiners” crew.

But one benefit of a big family is the blessing of experience. You don’t have to go very far to find answers to your questions. With six brothers and seven sisters, Mike Meiners had plenty of examples and trails that were blazed before him.

“My father was a blue-collar guy,” Meiners stated. “We did everything together. My mom stayed at home until my youngest brother was in school and then she went to school to get her degree. Dad never went to college, but he made sure all 14 of his children graduated from college. That influence from mom and dad, their total dedication to their children and their families is something that we think is normal.”

The family grew up close to the church, “about 200 yards from it”, and it was the center of their family’s life. They walked to school, to Mass and saw their parents actively involved in church ministry and stewardship. “Everybody we associated with was in that circle of our life,” he said.

As a young student-athlete at St. Stephen Martyr, Mike was one of those standout players in the CSAA, but he had a lot of help from his coaches. “We had some really dedicated coaches in grade school,” he recalled. “There was a big difference in the way coaches coached back then, but they all did the best they knew how.”

He was coached at St. Stephen Martyr by another of those recognizable Louisville sport’s names, Ken Nord. He was a standout offensive tackle and kicker at St. Xavier and went on to play defensive line at Kentucky. He was blessed to have some great coaches in Mike Glaser at St. X and Jerry Claiborne at UK.

Just five years after he graduated from UK and gave up football for good, he and his wife decided it was time to give back to the Louisville Catholic sports community. They both agreed that part of their stewardship at St. Patrick’s Parish would be him volunteering to coach football.

“My wife and I were married for two years and St. Pat’s was an up-and-coming church going through their first building fund-drive,” he said. “We went to a St. Patrick’s Day dance and thought it would be a good place to worship. The football team was started in the fall of 1995 with a team of all 5th grade students.”

An assistant coach to Mike Wagner with that inaugural St. Pat’s team, Meiners has been involved with the football program ever since. He’s in his 11th year as head coach of the 7th/8th grade team.

“It really came down to stewardship,” he said. “Everyone in the Catholic community needs to contribute and my wife and I have strong feelings towards that. We thought it would be a great fit to give back what I could as a coach and mentor to these young student-athletes.”

He had an opportunity to play in the Canadian football league, at the invitation of current UK coach Joker Phillips, but decided to get his CPA certification and got to work for the blue-chip accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. After several years in the accounting business, Meiners decided to start his own business and do “the entrepreneur thing.” Being his own boss allowed him the freedom to pursue his coaching vocation.

“The number one thing is to teach children to get along and to see that when everyone is going in the same direction, you get a lot more accomplished,” he said. “The main thing for us is to teach them to be selfless.”

Meiners and his staff participate in the SportsLeader program created by Paul Passafiume, long-time coach at St. Agnes, which focuses on teaching virtues through sports to student-athletes in elementary, high school and college.

“We’ll study a virtue for a couple of weeks and we’ll relate it to the sermon they heard the prior Sunday,” he explained. “We’ll spend about 10 minutes talking about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to learn. After a recent practice their homework assignment was to give me a definition of what a man is and two examples of men that they could think of other than their coaches and why they think that. It’s a great exercise because it allows you to see how diluted young minds can get these days.”

One part of the SportsLeader program that is especially poignant is “Jersey night,” a unique event that packs a powerful message.

“It’s a night where their dad can stand in front of their son and tell them that they love him,” said Meiners. “It’s a special night for all involved.”

As a vocation, Meiners feels like coaching has called him to serve others. “Whether you pray about it, or whether it just happens, it became pretty obvious to me that this is something I wanted to do,” he said.

He has 49 nieces and nephews, enough to field a few football games at once. But the satisfaction for Meiners comes from giving back to his community.

“When you’re around kids and get involved with them, it’s very gratifying to help them along the way or to hear that you’ve made a difference in their lives.”

 

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