Jim Howard Talks 40 Years As a Youth Sports Volunteer Coach
Jim Howard has spent 40 years as a volunteer for Jeffersontown youth sports after a friend asked him to help coach. “Then he moved,” he says of that friend. “Once I got started, I just continued to coach.”
Howard moved to Jeffersontown in 1980. He’s from Arkansas and Texas but came to Louisville for work in 1966. Howard had intended to go into teaching but became a chemist to better support his family. He works for Clariant but is now on medical leave to receive dialysis treatment three days per week.
He’s dealing now with side effects and adjusting. Both his sons live within about one mile from him, and are there “to push him and encourage him to get his strength back,” says son Matt.
He’s also coached football, starting in 1969. He said his late wife Sharon once joked it was a “good thing I didn’t like silk shorts,” or he would be coaching basketball too. His son Matt shared that, before she passed away, his grandmother would joke that she would try not to pass “during football or baseball season.”
“Nothing is supposed to happen, nobody is supposed to get sick or get married during football or baseball,” jokes Jim’s son Bill.
Howard also sings in church choir at Summit Heights. He is on the board of directors for Jeffersontown Youth Baseball and hopes to coach again this year. He’d like to continue to coach football if possible. He became ill after baseball started this year, after drafting what he calls “one of his best teams.” He turned the team over to fathers. He calls dialysis “a crimp in my style.”
Howard also helped bring Special Olympics to Louisville, while active with Buechel and Fern Creek Jaycees in the 1970s. His daughter Angel had Down Syndrome and enjoyed cheerleading. She attended school at Tully and Churchill Park. She passed away unexpectedly in 1995.
Coach Howard has some famous fans too. Michael Jackson from Southeast Missouri football, MLB player Matt Anderson, and NFL’s Joe Johnston. He recently heard from Austin Warner of the St. Louis Cardinals AA team. Warner reached out when he heard Howard was sick.
“I tell them I’m the best coach they ever had,” Howard laughs.
Matt Howard says his father has been coaching since “before I was born. He loves working with kids. He was meant to work with young people.”
Bill stated that he remembers his dad coaching his “entire life.”
“I remember going to Seneca, as far back as I can remember,” he says. “He coached us in tee ball at Buechel, before moving to Jeffersontown in about 1979 or 1980.”
Howard was Matt’s assistant football coach but Matt said he never showed any favoritism.
“He wanted to be fair,” Matt says.
Matt also coached with him for several years. Matt has two sons, and one of his sons also played football with Jim as coach.
“That was one of the most important things to me, that he got to play for his grandfather,” he says.
“He’s stern, he was an old school kind of dad,” says Matt of his father. “That’s why it’s important to him to coach all those years – ultimately, he wants to make a difference in young people’s lives, and he has that ability. He’s not (coaching) to relive glory days or make a name, he’s dedicated to what he’s doing, not just for a trophy.”
“One of the things he tries in instill is that life is about winning and learning,” Matt says. “Life’s lessons, you’re not always going to win but got to try. You may get knocked down but have to learn to get back up. He wants to win but ultimately to mold boys into young men that can contribute to society. “
Bill agrees, “Coaching has been his life. He’s dedicated more than 40 years. He did it for the kids, for love of the game, and to teach life skills.”
Coach Charles “Dee” Mucker, league president, is a good example of how Howard’s work has come full circle. Howard was his coach in the mid-1980s and coached his kids too.
“Jim is an outstanding guy and member of the league, as a coach and on our board,” he says. “He’s served as secretary and now treasurer. He’s coached every age group. He’s dedicated. We put on events, he’s always there, he represents the league at larger league meetings and the city council. He’s at every board meeting. I know I can count on him.
“He’s a good-hearted person, giver of his time,” Mucker adds. “It’s a blessing to have a guy like him around. We live in a time when it’s hard to find volunteers, but he’s always there. He’s there when we open and still there when we’re cleaning up. He is dedicated to kids and families and Jeffersontown. He’s irreplaceable.”
Howard says participating in youth sports teaches kids about life.
“How to win, how to lose, be a good sport, get along with other people,” he says. “If they can’t do that, they’re not going to in life. We have teams for a reason. Sports help kids learn to be with other people, learn and be a part of life.”