Joe Connelly began teaching with Brebeuf Jesuit’s Religious Studies Department in 2011. That very fall, Joe decided to follow his own life-long passion for bowling and become assistant coach for the school’s team.  Since that time, Joe has coached two of his own children, mentored countless student-athletes, and, most recently, was named the Youth Bowling Coach of the Year by the Central Indiana Bowling Centers Association.

We caught up with Joe to hear about his experience as a coach thus far, some of his favorite memories from his time with the team, and the impact being a Brebeuf Jesuit coach has had on his life.


How long have you been bowling? 

I started bowling in 4th grade with the Police Boys Club on Long Island. After six years there, I bowled the last two years on my Chaminade High School (NY) team. My highest average was 182.

How long have you been coaching bowling?   

Since my first year at Brebeuf – in the Fall of 2011.

What inspired you to begin coaching at Brebeuf?  

I wanted to free up our top-notch Head Coach, Rick Kerby (a longtime professional bowler), to do what he does best…coach students on the lanes to bowl well. I also wanted to recognize that our students are more than just whom we see in the classroom; by spending quality time with them in a sport, I am afforded the opportunity to “care for the whole person”. My primary responsibilities as assistant coach are: to coordinate and implement effective communication between the coaches, bowlers, parents, the Brebeuf Athletic Department and the Indianapolis North/West Conference; to complete & submit the seemingly endless paperwork (both online and off-line) throughout the bowling season; and be a cheerleader & mentor for each and every bowler – at practices, at matches, and at school.

You were recently named “Youth Bowling Coach of the Year” by the Central Indiana Bowling Centers Association. Tell us a bit about what this award means to you and how it feels to be recognized in this way.  

Above all else, this award indicates that young people are valued much more than some would have us believe. I appreciate working with the great people at Woodland Bowl, and I am indebted to wonderful leaders such as Fr. Bill Verbryke S.J., Greg VanSlambrook and Ted Hampton for allowing me to educate and mentor both in the classroom and on the lanes. Their collective support of the bowling program is so much appreciated by me, and by the coaches, bowlers and parents who help sustain it. I am always grateful to be recognized by anyone, or by any group, as a promoter of the inherent goodness and immeasurable societal value of teenagers. I am humbled by, and grateful for, this “Youth Coach of the Year” award. (By the way, this is my first bowling award of any kind in 34 years, since I was named the NSCHSAA Most Improved Bowler for the 1983-84 season!).

What is your mentality when it comes to coaching Brebeuf students?

Brebeuf students are amazing human beings who have a myriad of interests – rarely do we have a bowler for whom bowling is more important to them than anything else. Thus, meeting them where they are in terms of other interests, how they view the world, and the ongoing balancing act between studies, family & extra-curriculars is a must! Having said all this, the sport of bowling is a metaphor for life: We APPROACH each day with a desire to learn more…we ROLL along with others on life’s journey…we STRIKE OUT on adventures as we grow and mature…we need to SPARE one another’s feelings when we are struggling emotionally with the grind of daily life…we must not SPLIT hairs; we should seek win-win situations when we are seeking a delicate juxtaposition between the discipline/enjoyment of bowling and the stresses that come with academic expectations. To bowl is to live.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of coaching?

Seeing how some of our bowlers who are more shy and self-conscious in their first year of bowling become active, empowering and challenging peer coaches during practices and matches in their junior & senior years.

What’s your favorite memory from your time coaching?  

Three come to mind: coaching my own son (Josh Connelly, ’12) and daughter (Julianna Connelly, ’16) on the team; seeing our girls’ team come from out of nowhere several years ago to qualify for Semistate; and watching our bowlers interact with, and befriend, our friends competing in the Special Olympics at the Area 9 Regional Bowling Tournament every November at Woodland Bowl. Those are all rewarding moments.

What impact do you hope to have on your students as a coach? 

I want them to see that I am authentic in how I live my life so that they can feel free to be their most genuine selves in their own lives. Also, I hope that they will choose to develop a deeper relationship with God, especially in the manner with which they treat others… from closest relative or friend to complete stranger or even adversary. May their most violent moments be merely the power in the pin action with their “in-the-pocket” strikes. 🙂