June 23rd, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Pat O'Bryan

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer


Hyland's Heroes: Pat O'Bryan
photo from Pat O'Bryan

St. Agnes A.D. stresses participation and positive values

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.

As athletic director at St. Agnes elementary, Pat O’Bryan oversees an extensive group of parent volunteers, coordinators and coaches in order to serve the 400-plus students attending the school. He estimates that during any one sports season more than half of the student body is involved in playing a sport. And over the course of the entire school year, a staggering 90% or more participate in a team sport at St. Agnes.

O’Bryan, who just completed his second year of a four year commitment as Athletic Director, got his start in the coaching ranks when his son Shane began playing sports at a young age. He coached volleyball and baseball at all levels at St. Agnes as his two sons grew with the sports.

“I coached boys and girls volleyball since the time the kids were in kindergarten,” he said. Son Shane recently graduated from St. Xavier and daughter Kelsey will be a senior at Presentation Academy (class of 2013). Youngest son Chad will be entering 7th grade at St. Agnes, so O’Bryan feels he has at least a few more years of coaching and volunteering left in him.

And for the O’Bryan household, coaching is a family affair. His wife Jill, current head coach of the Presentation Academy field hockey team—on which daughter Kelsey plays a strong role—started the program in 2006 and has orchestrated a steady rise to success in seven seasons.

“I’ve coached at all levels of baseball and volleyball, but mostly to assist and lend a hand to our top coaches,” he said. “We’ve been blessed to have some great coaches at St. Agnes and I’m glad to help where I can. Not too many athletic directors (in elementary schools) have the time to coach, but I try to help as much as possible.”

The high participation rate in athletics is something O’Bryan is particularly proud of. Yet he is quick to point out that the support the athletic department receives from parent volunteers is the main reason the school is able to offer the number of sports (and teams) that they do, in addition to the high quality instruction for all student-athletes.

“We’re happy to say that the last time we looked at the numbers we had about 95% participation in athletics with all of our students,” he proudly stated. “Participation is a big thing at St. Agnes. Most kids will play some sport in their time at the school. We stay busy year round.”

O’Bryan got his start as a coach while still in high school. The St. Xavier alum (class of ’84), played baseball in the Lyndon recreation leagues through his teenage years and was looking to stay involved with the game.

“I was 17 years old and looking for something to do to stay involved with the sport,” he recalled. “I was lucky enough that one of the coaches there trusted me enough to take over a team of eight year old kids and I’ve coached ever since.”

O’Bryan attended St. Joseph’s elementary in Butchertown and played basketball there, one of the only sports offered at the small school.

“We were such a small school back then,” he mentioned. “There was volleyball for the girls and basketball for the boys and every once in a while we’d have enough kids to put together a track team. But baseball is what I played and enjoyed all my life.”

With regards to volunteering as a coach in the CSAA, O’Bryan and his wife were looking for ways to get involved, to improve their stewardship with the church.

“When my kids started at St. Agnes, Jill and I were looking for ways to get involved with the school,” he said. “But even before we had our children we coached volleyball in the CSAA together. We’ve always been involved in athletics at some level so we just looked for a way to get involved with St. Agnes when our kids attended. I became the spring sports director, overseeing baseball and track and helping with volleyball; just looking for ways to contribute.”

He came up through the coaching and seasonal directing ranks, eventually settling in as the volleyball director. All of those experiences along the way helping him prepare for his current role as Athletic Director.

“There was a need, and quite honestly, I didn’t jump in looking to take the job as I was really involved with the church picnic and other things,” he said. “But some parents asked me to consider it and I agreed.”

At St. Agnes, participation is the main objective for their athletic programs.

“We’ve always done our best to get as many kids involved as we can at every level,” he said. “We start with intramural sports in kindergarten and we want them to have fun, learn life lessons from these team sports and continue to grow with them. We really stress having fun, staying in good shape and learn to work hard and be a good teammate.

“We have a lot of parent volunteers who help us run leagues and we’re able to, cost-effectively, offer a lot of sports for our kids,” he continued. “It’s always worked well for us. We start them early and the kids stay with it. We have terrific directors for each sport and that really makes my job easy to do. We have coaches who give countless hours and directors to oversee every sport and they do so much to make sure the kids are getting the opportunities they deserve.”

While the athletic director’s job at a school with so many children involved can be a big task, O’Bryan appreciates all the support he gets. And he constantly reminds all coaches and volunteers that the kids are at the heart of the St. Agnes athletic programs.

“The CSAA preaches that it’s all about the kids,” said O’Bryan. “At St. Agnes, it is about the kids learning sports, having fun and getting the life lessons they need to grow and develop as they go through our program.”

 

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