March 16th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Jimmy Blanton

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer


Hyland's Heroes: Jimmy Blanton
image from loucsaa.org

Coaching is a calling for Jimmy Blanton

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.

What started as an opportunity for a 16 year old high school student has turned into a professional hobby. For 41 consecutive years Jimmy Blanton has been a fixture in the CSAA coaching community as he has gracing the sidelines of local Catholic elementary and high schools.

To Blanton, coaching is an avocation for which he felt a calling. A passion that began as a teenager and has kept him involved with youth sports for all or part of five decades. He played sports in grade school and high school, playing basketball and baseball, but discovered his love of coaching early in life.

His story begins at Our Lady of Consolation. He was part of the inaugural first grade class when the school opened in 1960. And he returned to OLC as a coach during his junior year in high school.

“I started coaching when I was sixteen years old, coaching a basketball team at Our Lady of Consolation,” he recalled. “My brother Mike is a year older than me and we started coaching in the 1970-71 season. It meant everything to me. It’s my calling to give back my time by working with youths.”

He’s coached girls and boys basketball, softball (slow and fast pitch), baseball and volleyball along the way. And he’s coached basketball for some team or another for all 41 of those years.

“I coached at Our Lady of Consolation until 1985 and then a friend of mine asked me to help coach the Presentation varsity girls basketball team as well as slo-pitch softball,” said Blanton. “I coached at Pres from 1985 to 1990 and then he got the basketball job at Holy Cross coaching the girls there from 1990-2000 and I coached softball there for a several years as well.”

He returned to OLC the next year and coached there through the merger with St. Polycarp and St. Clement into St. Andrew’s. He’s coached at St. Andrew’s ever since. That is one mighty long streak of coaching service to the Louisville Catholic community.

“When you coach as long as I have you get to know people like Jim Frame and all the folks at the CSAA,” he said. “I went to talk to Jim one day this past Fall and he asked me, ‘how long have we been doing this?’ and we both laughed.”

With his wealth of experience, it is no wonder that Blanton has been involved with various administrative and rules committees with the CSAA.

“It comes with the territory,” he mentioned. “And it’s a big deal for these kids. I’ve been on the softball rules committee for three or four years, but it’s for the community and the kids. The CSAA do a wonderful job making sure these kids get to play and learn those life lessons that come from them.”

He sees kids that he’s coached with their children now. And some with grandchildren. He’ll coach them all, eventually.

“I’ve coached some of my players sons,” he proudly mentioned, “and I’ve coached against some of my former players. But in recent years I’ve been coaching the girls teams and we’ve had a nice run of success coming close to a few championships.”

To coach for that long, over several generations and in a variety of sports Blanton said the key to it all is having structure and some solid rules for his teams to follow.

“It’s a team concept where everything we do is for the betterment of the team,” he stated. “We’re not out there for any individual stuff; that’s never been a part of what we do and it never will be. A lot of these kids will tell you that we try to teach them more than the sport itself. We want to teach them about life; about how to treat others; about respect. And to have quite a few of my players give back to the community is a real honor.”

A few more common traits of his coaching through the years include attention to detail and teaching fundamentals along with that team centered approach.

“Our practice routines are pretty much the same since I’ve started coaching,” he said. “I always tried to nip any type of bickering on any team. And respect for other people has always been important to me and that somehow finds its way into my coaching. You have to learn to be a good winner and a good person when you lose. You never act badly toward the other team if you lost a game.”

He recognizes and has experienced a lot of changes in his student athletes and styles of play through the years.

“But the biggest difference through the years has been the involvement of the parents,” he pointed out. “Where they were more spectators in the early days of my coaching—when they would drop off their kids and you as the coach would be the authority—they’re now so much more involved with their kids.”

He’s not complaining, though. He appreciates the communities in which he’s served and all those that have helped him along the way. And he is still very happy serving the young boys and girls at St. Andrew’s as well as the CSAA.

“I think the CSAA does an excellent job of teaching sportsmanship and values to these kids,” he said. “I enjoyed playing when I was growing up and always had fun. I try to teach the kids that it is a game and that we should have fun playing a game.”

Coaching games, teaching values and leading his student athletes down a positive path, Blanton may well keep coaching for another 20 years.

“I always thought that coaching was one of those things God put me on earth to do,” he said. “To give back by teaching these kids is a pleasure. I enjoy coaching now as much as I ever enjoyed it.”

 

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