Coaching

Youth and prep coach Paul Hofmann did more than just teach the game

2014-01-27T22:00:00Z 2014-01-28T14:17:11Z Youth and prep coach Paul Hofmann did more than just teach the gameJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

One Hundred-and-Ten percent.

Some coaches demand it; some players claim to give it.

All Patti McCormack requests is 10 percent. She'd like 10 percent of what Paul Hofmann gave on a regular basis.

"Imagine how better the world would be if everyone contributed just 10 percent of what Paul did for the community and for the people around him," said McCormack, Lowell High School's athletic director. "His involvement. His passion. He understood the importance of developing the whole kid."

For the past two years, Hofmann coached Lowell's freshman boys basketball team. He also was a longtime youth football coach with Southlake Pop Warner, and founded the Outcast Thunder travel baseball program five years ago.

On Jan. 9, Hofmann collapsed and died from undisclosed causes. He was 48.

"We had grief counselors talk with the students the following day," McCormack said. "The (freshman) team's next game was Monday, and the team had a discussion about whether to play it.

"In the end they decided that Paul would want them to get right back at it and play the game. So in his honor, they did."

The problem was that Hofmann's funeral services were the same day at Sheets Funeral Home in Lowell. The Red Devils were to play at Gavit later that night.

"But Gavit was willing to come down here to play us," McCormack said. "We played it in our main gym instead of our auxiliary gym. It was an emotional night, and it was the biggest crowd we ever had for a freshman basketball game."

With Nathan Korth taking over as head coach, and behind the courageous play of Hofmann's son, Noah, who earned "Sportsmanship Award" honors after the game, Lowell won.

Hofmann was also survived by his wife, Bridget, son Zakariah, daughter Abby, and brother, Tim. His "family" extended much further.

"That's what we were, one big family," said Stacey Karras, whose son Kole played with the Outcast Thunder 14-and-under team. "At the wake, all the (OCT) players showed up in their uniforms, and the coaches and parents came with the same-colored shirts we wore at the games.

"No, I wasn't a coach, just one of those parents who puts their two-cents in more than they should. But when I would go up to Paul and, 'Why are you putting that guy in that position?' or 'Why are we doing this and not that?', Paul always took time to explain things to me when he had every reason to ignore me. Not only did he help teach the game to the players, he was willing to educate the parents as well. I'm a much more knowledgeable fan because of Paul."

Karras said the sudden loss of Hofmann will likely require a long recovery time.

"For many of our players, this was their first tragic loss," she said. "Sometimes you can prepare to lose a grand parent, but this was a total shock."

Hofmann coached many of the Outcast Thunder players since they were 9 years old.

"But last season was the final one for the (14-and-under) team," said Jake Cory, who was an assistant coach for the OC Thunder. "Many of the players are now freshmen, and high school rules make it harder to keep a travel team together once they reach that age."

Before his death, Hofmann accepted the head coach position for Lowell's freshman baseball team.

"He was the type of man willing to branch out to help as many people as possible," Cory said. "And it wasn't just about showing kids how to be better baseball players, but how to be better people.

"He stressed community involvement, through the blood drives and charitable fundraisers he got our team to participate in. He made sure our players knew how lucky they were for the opportunity to play travel ball, and the importance to give back to society."

Cory said he will continue to coach within the Outcast Thunder program, which recently started several younger teams.

"Paul started it, and we're going to keep it going," Cory said.

Lowell varsity boys basketball coach Nate Richie didn't know Hofmann before he hired him two years ago.

"But he came highly recommended from my assistant coach (Chris Jusevitch), who coached with Paul in Pop Warner," Richie said. "As a varsity coach, you can't be at every practice at every level to make sure players are learning what they are supposed to learning.

"Paul was able to implement everything we wanted him do to. He was excellent in keeping the players engaged and enthusiastic. This is a huge loss for everybody ... his family, his players, the coaches and the community."

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