By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
Rick Arnold still has the firm handshake and direct manner of the law enforcement officer he was for more than 20 years — most of them spent as a detective.
And he still has the enthusiasm and physical characteristics of the athlete he was, too. Now he’s brought that experience, character and talent to his leadership position at the Catholic School Athletic Association.
Arnold, who possesses an affable yet firm personality, was named executive director — just the third executive director the association has had in its more than 60-year history — in November 2012. He succeeded Jim Frame, who had served the CSAA since 1983.
And prior to Arnold assuming his new post at the association offices on Bishop Lane, he put together a litany of experien-ces that he believes serves him well in his new position.
His law enforcement career for both the old Jefferson County Police Department and the Louisville Metro Police Department, saw him work as a domestic violence detective, a major case detective and a homicide detective.
And long before he launched his career as a police officer, Arnold was an athlete at St. Martha School, Trinity High School and the University of Louisville, where he was a pitcher for the baseball team. And as if that wasn’t enough athletic experience to qualify him for the CSAA position, Arnold also coached baseball at both St. Xavier High School and at the University of Louisville.
So he’s known the challenges of dealing with defeat as well as the joys of athletic success. He’s also known the thrill of investigating and catching some of the area’s most violent criminals, and the satisfaction of seeing them incarcerated and removed from society.
The parallels between running the CSAA and his law enforcement career are many, he noted last week in an interview at his office last week.
“They are both jobs that demand discipline, structure and ethics,” he said. “Working a homicide case, for instance, you had to develop a plan, a strategy, just like you’d develop a game plan for a ball game. In
athletics, practice is where you achieve success or failure.
“In this job, preparation and attention to detail determines the same thing,” he noted.
“In law enforcement, your patrol officers are the heart of your organization. With the CSAA, the heart and soul of your organization are your parish athletic directors and field and gym managers. They’re the people who really make this whole enterprise work.”
And quite an enterprise it is.
Last year, nearly 16,000 Catholic grade school students took part in the 13 sports the CSAA oversees.
In basketball alone, there were 590 teams playing in various leagues and levels — and all of those nearly 600 teams were involved in post-season tournaments. Scheduling, seeding the participants and organizing the locations, times and dates take a tremendous amount of time, Arnold noted.
“And remember there are just four of us here. In addition to Arnold there are Lorine Taylor, the administrative assistant who schedules CSAA leagues and tournament games, coordinating with athletic directors and league managers. Julie Saettel is the association’s bookkeeper, responsible for all the financial records and payments. Kay Whelan is the receptionist who also updates the association’s website and helps “guide issues to their resolution,” that same website said.
“Couldn’t do a thing without them,” Arnold was quick to note. “And I’m still learning as I go. When I make a mistake, I want my board, the people I work with and for, to point it out. And then I want to make sure the same mistake isn’t made again.”
While an occasional bad apple in the stands — usually a parent trying to live an athletic life vicariously through his children — might cause a problem or two during the various seasons, most of the thousands of people involved in CSAA competition comply with the bylaws.
“We want the young people to enjoy the competition, to learn those lessons that can be learned through winning, and the lessons you need to learn when you fall short sometimes,” Arnold explained. “Athletics can be a great teacher of life, when done right. And that’s what we expect of everyone who coaches or takes part in any way in the CSAA. We expect them to behave the way Christians should behave.”
Arnold is quick to tell you that his work as a police officer was, without a doubt, public service.
“And so is this job with the CSAA,” he said. “I’m serving that part of the public that takes part in the CSAA. As a police officer, I was involved in a lot of arbitration, settling disputes and differences. Sometimes it’s the same thing with this job. But I love the challenge of it, and I hope that as time goes by I’m getting better at it.”
Rick Arnold and his wife, Kathy, have two children and are members of St. Albert the Great Church.