Holy Angels activities director mixes athletics, theology

| August 17, 2011 | 0 Comments
Michael Kautzman


Michael Kautzman, 40, recently was hired as activities director for the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. In that role, he will supervise and manage all extracurricular activities, including athletics. For the past seven years, he has served on the school’s faculty as a theology teacher, theology department chair and director of faith formation. He also has coached ninth-grade football and baseball and once was a student at the St. Paul Seminary, where he spent time discerning whether God was calling him to the priesthood. (He eventually left the seminary and now is married with one child.) In the following interview with Catholic Spirit reporter Dave Hrbacek, he talks about merging theology with athletics.

Q How will your theology background guide you in your role as activities director?

“I just think it provides the values that underlie everything I do. So, in that sense, my study of theology helped me to understand my personal beliefs and values more deeply. In that regard, it’s just going to continue to inform everything I do here, just like in the past it’s informed all of the other positions or activities that I’ve been involved in.

“For example, in my role of director of faith formation, we began a program called Faith in Action, in which prayer, service [and] leadership development were intentionally integrated into all of our activities. That program will continue to expand and grow now that I’m also the activities director.”

Q How do you hope to incorporate this background into the schools athletic and extracurricular programs?

“There are a few programs. We have the AHA Way program, which is a system of four core values that we integrate into everything that we do, and then, the Faith in Action program, which works hand in hand, and are the primary values and means by which we integrate our larger belief system into our activities.”

Q Talk more about the AHA Way.

“There are four general pillars: Honor the absent, communicate [that] you matter, help others and yourself to succeed, and then be a part of the solution. . . . Those are basic, core human values, and then the Faith in Action puts in the prayer and service piece, and leadership development. So, they kind of work together, the two programs, and are integrated into everything we do in the activities department.”

Q Name one theological principle that you think could greatly benefit your school’s student athletes.

“I’d simplify some of [Jesuit Father] Bernard Lonergan’s epistemology. It’s basically this: Action followed by reflection leads to more purposeful action. . . . Any time we stop and reflect on an activity, we learn more about ourselves, about what we’ve done well, what we can do better, so that we become deeper and richer persons moving forward after the reflection. God is involved in some way in every activity we do, teaching us a lesson if we stop to reflect back. And then, that guides us forward in a deeper and richer way.”

Q You are not merely a theology teacher who has been asked to enter the realm of athletics. Talk about your background in sports and coaching.

“I kind of make a joke that I became an assistant coach at the age of 2 because my mother [Maureen Kautzman] was a P.E. teacher who quit teaching to raise the remaining five children that came after me. We were always outside doing stuff and, as the oldest child, I always was involved in organizing sports for my younger brothers and sisters.

“But then, I went on to participate in athletics in high school — football, basketball, track and baseball. And, I went on to play four years of college football and coach one year, two years of college baseball and ran a summer rec. program for eight years in my hometown [Mott, N.D.]. Then, before I entered the seminary, in the public school system [I taught] P.E. and coached track and basketball, and then moved on to coach football and baseball here [at Holy Angels]. . . . It’s been a part of my entire life.”

Q Has your background in theology caused you to ask deeper questions, like what role should athletics have — and not have — in the life of a high school student?

“Yes. I think the benefit of having that [theology background] is understanding that the person has a complex makeup of body, mind and spirit. The deeper question is how do you balance those three aspects of your life in a healthy way? And, that’s always a work in progress to try to do. I think that’s one question I often ask myself: How do we help the kids grow in each of these areas and try to pursue excellence in each of these areas, but also teach them how to balance each part of themselves? Because it’s so easy for one to become so much more important than the others that you become unbalanced.”

Q Your school has a reputation for success in athletics, with state tournament appearances and championships in multiple sports. What is the reputation you would like your school to have when it comes to things like character, sportsmanship and faith?

“I just had a conversation about this with the coaches’ council that I’m starting to develop. We chose a theme for ourselves: Stars shooting for excellence. And, we talked about the importance of wanting to be known as adults who help try to foster excellence in all areas so our kids are carrying themselves the right way on the field.”

Q How can you help make that happen?

“I guess I would start with one small anecdote. We just sent two of our coaches to a conference at Notre Dame. . . . One of the speakers said that the best coaches, when they step out on the field for practice, the first person they go up and speak to is the student who may not be the star of the team or may not get a lot of playing time. As soon as the coach does that, the other students on the field see that as an example to follow, that we’re a team here. It’s not just about the best [players] as far as physical abilities, it’s about each one of us participating.

“And, I thought, that’s the sort of spirit that we’d like to have, that every person on the team, regardless of playing time or position or awards or achievements, understands that they’re valued. And, you know, that’s the body of Christ — many parts, one body and each part has a place.”

Q You were in the seminary. Talk about that experience.

“As I look back at the pattern of my life, it [being in the seminary] was the moment that things went from black and white to color.

“When I encountered philosophy and theology, and then started to reflect back on what I had learned and previous experiences, it just caused everything to look more colorful and vibrant — deeper. It was a wonderful experience. It was [also] a difficult experience when I found that my calling was not to the priesthood, that God was calling me to other things. There was a little bit of a rocky road there, but now everything seems to have come together. . . . It feels like those two things [theology and athletics] are really starting to merge in everything that I do in my role as activities director. All the passion I have for athletics and activities is present, but then those values and that perspective that I gained from my study of theology helps me to understand and to channel that passion more properly and correctly so that I see things in a deeper way and a more meaningful way.”

Q Would you like to see priesthood and religious vocations come out of this school, and will you try to promote them?

“Yes, most certainly. When I was a freshman football coach, we regularly tried to have our chaplain or other priests in the area come in to do a freshman football Mass. Our current chaplain has Mass for our varsity football team before every game and always gives them something to think about and chew on. We were founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and they want the young women in the community to be inspired by that example of commitment.”

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