Alex Kotlowitz, an award-winning author and the most influential professor I encountered as an undergraduate at Notre Dame, offered students a simple piece of writing advice:
“Stay out of the story,” he said. “Readers don’t care about you.”
I agreed with him then and I agree with him now.
But when The Voice-Tribune’s hall of fame sports columnist Earl Cox asked (demanded) that I share some of my athletics background in this week’s column, there was just no skirting the vertical pronoun.
For nearly eight months, now I have covered prep sports and it has been a thrill to meet so many of the athletes, coaches and administrators who make Louisville a unique high school sports scene.
Growing up in the city’s South End, I had no choice but to love sports. Everyone played everything all of the time.
My neighborhood near Iroquois Park was host to pick-up basketball, football, baseball and soccer games year-round and you either jumped in or went without friends.
When it was time to select a high school, my dad, Jim — a longtime coach, teacher and athletic director at DeSales — weighed in.
“You don’t have to come to DeSales,” he said. “Feel free to shop other schools, but you might also want to shop a few apartments while you’re at it.”
DeSales it was.
In addition to basketball, golf and volleyball, I had the good fortune of playing four years of soccer for coach Neil Schulten.
Each season Schulten somehow molded a group of scrappy non-soccer players into a serviceable and competitive team. We even advanced to the round of eight in the state tournament my senior season.
My high school athletics “career”, however, was dwarfed by those of my sisters, Shannon, 21, Stephanie, 25, and Rebecca, 28.
All three were volleyball standouts at Presentation and went on to excel at the college level too. Shannon, a senior at Campbellsville, was recently named 2011 Mid-South Conference Player of the Year and Stephanie, who graduated from Marshall in 2008, just finished a three-year stint as a pro in Switzerland.
Rebecca, a 2005 graduate of Campbellsville, was a four-time all-conference selection and finished top-5 all-time in both blocks and kills.
My good friend Jamie Finn never passes on an opportunity to remind me that I am without a doubt the least athletic of the Cahill kids.
My sisters most certainly acquired their athletic ability from our mom, Jackie. With a streak of 20-straight Derby Festival Mini-Marathons and an insane appetite for biking and swimming, she is a bona-fide exercise junkie.
From DeSales I headed to South Bend where I was a three-year starting goalkeeper on the soccer team and graduated with a degree in American Studies in 2007. A couple of Big East titles and two trips to the Elite Eight highlighted my time under the golden dome.
An offer to coach soccer at Harvard University came next and from 2008 to 2010 I worked under Crimson head coach Jamie Clark. One of college soccer’s fastest-rising coaches, Clark now leads the program at the University of Washington.
In Cambridge, I had the great honor of mentoring some of the country’s most gifted student-athletes and learned much about the delicate balance between academics and athletics.
As impressive as Harvard was, all it took was two northeastern winters to convince me that I missed home. I moved back to Louisville in 2010.
And that is more than enough about me.
While I certainly enjoy covering the high-profile sports and prep stars who will populate rosters at top Division I programs, I hope this column will also serve to highlight sports that are often given short-shrift as well as athletes who may be honing their craft slightly under the radar.
Next week, it’s back to the athletes, teams and coaches that make high school sports such a compelling beat.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: High School Sports Report