Former players, coaches recall CAA’s impact, memorable moments

| April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

SOPHIE SCHWARTZ

Schwartz participated in the CAA from 2005 to 2009 at Transfiguration in Oakdale in soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball and track. She is currently a senior at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, where she has played basketball, volleyball and softball.

What I enjoyed most: “The opportunity it provided. It gave me a chance to try all different kinds of sports and excel at each level. I had the chance to play with my friends while proudly representing my school. . . . Also knowing that my fam­ily had a part in that opportunity made it even more meaningful. My grandfather, John Haj­lo, was a co-founder of the CAA.”

Memorable moment: “I remember the time when I was so close to winning a CAA championship and finally getting a championship T-shirt that I could taste it. Almost every year we went to the championship game for softball, and every year it would come down to us and St. John the Baptist. Each year we would work so hard only to fall short and lose in that final game. I remember being so frustrated and angry because all I had ever wanted was one of those T-shirts.

Schwartz

Schwartz

“To me that T-shirt represented a champion, and I wanted to be a champion more than anything. . . .  Although, to my disappointment, we never won those T-shirts, I got something much more valuable. I learned how to be resilient. All those close calls taught me to never to concede or give up. It is a skill that has helped me in so many aspects of my life. Even though it may have been nice to win just one of those games, I know I needed the lessons that losing those games taught me.”

How CAA has changed me: “Participating in the CAA made me a better person, regardless of the athletic skill and abilities I gained. The program taught me how to have pride in my team, my school, my family and the program as a whole. I learned that what you do as an individual reflects on every group you are a part of. This forced me to hold myself to a higher standard. It made me understand that being a good sport and a classy competitor can go a long way in this world. Being those things can be tough to do but they are what is really important in the end. The CAA gave me character and made me into a well-rounded, respectable and determined young athlete.”

MARK WINGERD

Wingerd attended Nativity of Our Lord School in the 1970s and 1980s, participating on the swim, baseball, basketball, football and soccer teams. His three sons have attended Nativity, and Wingerd has coached basketball and baseball there.

He currently coaches baseball with a friend who played on the same Nativity basketball team with him.

What I enjoyed most: “There is nothing better than being on a team with all of your buddies and enjoying the comradery.  That was true when I was a player in 1980 and as a coach in 2012.  Many of my CAA teammates are still my best friends today.”

Memorable moment: “I have many memorable moments from the CAA, but what was most meaningful to me were the great coaches. I was lucky to have Dennis Denning, John Tauer, Bob Doane and Jack Peick as my coaches. They made sports fun and gave us great life lessons.”

How CAA has changed me: “The CAA was much more than a sports organization to me and my teammates.  It helped shape us as young men, teaching us about sportsmanship, hard work, perseverance, loyalty, community, commitment, dedication and pride in our school. All of these traits have contributed to the successful careers of my Nativity teammates.

NICOLE (PERSBY) GIEFER

Giefer played girls softball, baseketball and soccer for St. Peter in North St. Paul from about the third grade until eighth grade, when she began attending Hill-Murray School in Maplewood. She later coached the girls sixth-grade basketball team for one year at St. ­Peter.

What I enjoyed most: “Looking back, the thing that I enjoyed most was playing against all the different Catholic schools and then becoming friends with some of those people when we entered high school together.”

Memorable moment: “I remember when I was in seventh grade playing on the basketball team, and we were in a tournament at Hill-Murray. I was also on a traveling basketball team and juggling game times and schedules. I showed up to the championship game late due a conflict with my traveling team. When I got to the Hill-Murray field house we were losing. I was so bummed. All I wanted to do was help our team win. At the time, our uniforms were reversible. I showed up wearing the wrong color on my jersey.

“So I ran into the gym only to turn back and run to the bathroom to flip my jersey around to the correct color (it was either blue or yellow). I sat on the bench waiting for my turn to go in the game. After halftime I went in the game. It was a nail-biter throughout, but we ended up winning. I had never felt more excited or closer to my team than at that moment.”

How CAA has changed me: “This goes back to the friendships I made along the way. It is nice to be competitive against people and then turn around and become their friend years down the road.”

FATHER JOHN UBEL

Father Ubel is the rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Playing days: “I was a member of the 1977 city championship baseball team at Nativity of Our Lord School in St. Paul.  While I usually rode the bench, I took pride in keeping a clean and accurate scorebook, and occasionally coaching first base, alerting runners to potential ‘pick-off’ throws from the opposing pitchers. I have kept in a scrapbook the program from the championship game as a proud memento of that day.”

Coaching days: “As a priest, I was privileged to coach seventh-grade basketball [at St. Thomas Academy] for four years in the early 1990s, and am happy to report that I only received one technical foul during that time. No, it was not for arguing with the referee. I did not allow that from my players, and did my level best to avoid it myself. I knew it was important to model good sportsmanship.”

Memorable moment: “In a championship game, I called one too many timeouts (two weeks before Chris Webber infamously did the same thing for the University of Michigan), thereby incurring a penalty, enabling the opposing team (my alma mater at Nativity) to score some key points near the end of the game — the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The CAA has been part of both in my life, facilitating valuable lessons on and off the field and the court. Congratulations on being such an integral part of the lives of so many young people in our Catholic schools.”

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Category: Catholic Athletic Association