August | Blue KC Coaches with Character
Laura O’Connell, head cross country coach, Blue Valley North HS
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the “C” You in the Major Leagues Foundation (CYITML) have announced Blue Valley North (KS) High School head cross country and assistant track and field coach Laura O’Connell as the August Blue KC Coaches with Character honoree.
“I am very honored to have been nominated and recognized as a Blue KC Coach with Character,” said O’Connell, who is in her sixth year as a coach at Blue Valley North. “I know some of the previous honorees and feel truly lucky to be in their company.”
A joint venture for Blue KC and CYITML, the Blue KC Coaches with Character program spotlights amateur coaches who, through their leadership on and off the field, are helping to grow youth sports in the Kansas City area, and making the community a better place to live, work and play.
“Cross country is a unique sport for coaches because they can pour life lessons into their athletes for extended periods of time while they’re running,” said Kansas City Royals General Manager and CYITML Founder & Executive Director Dayton Moore. “Coach O’Connell is the type of coach who wants her athletes to enjoy the same success she had as a runner, but more importantly wants to offer those incredible life lessons.”
A four-time cross country state champion and seven-time track and field state champion (1,600m and 800m) in high school at Blue Valley Northwest, O’Connell attended the University of Missouri where she earned a Big 12 Conference title in the mile and the 1,500m and set the school record for the 1,500. Accepting a position as a math teacher at BVN directly out of college, O’Connell knew she also wanted to coach the sport she loved.
“I was eager to start my career as a math teacher, but I knew that running was too much a part of me to give it up all together,” said O’Connell, who enjoys being able to run with her athletes during workouts. “I get to listen to the highs and lows of their days while running with them, which makes it easy to get to know them on a deeper level and to coach them in more than just running. I’ve found a new appreciation for the sport in my role as a coach, and I love it!”
Known as a passionate and highly motivated coach, O’Connell uses her time with her athletes to instill life lessons and encourage them as both athletes and students. She emphasizes the importance being part of a team, cheering on others around them and prioritizing their work in the classroom.
“I believe how you do one thing is how you do everything, so we emphasize the importance of giving everything your best, including their academics,” said O’Connell, who has coached her team to one state runner-up title and two district championships. “I love getting to watch my athletes’ hard work pay off when they finally reach their goal or get a new PR (personal record). I drive to work excited every day and leave exhausted but happy.”
O’Connell was nominated for the Blue KC Coaches with Character honor by BVN athletic trainer John Derington, who works with O’Connell daily and observes her dedication to her athletes and her sport.
“She takes the sport that she loves, and excelled at during her high school days and helps others to find a love of running, exercising and staying healthy,” said Derington, who says that the cross-country program at North has grown significantly because of O’Connell’s dedication and love for her athletes. “She deserves recognition because of the life lessons she teaches her athletes through running including evaluation, goal-setting, perseverance, confidence and acceptance. Laura enriches the lives of her athletes and those she encounters by taking time to uplift those in need. She is a great asset to youth sports in our community and we are lucky to have her.”
Throughout the Major League Baseball season, Blue KC and CYITML are recognizing six area coaches as Blue KC Coaches with Character. All honorees are chosen based on nominations from the public, which will be accepted until early September.
“Coach O’Connell has learned many lessons through her own running career and is using her role as a coach to instill those in her athletes,” said Christina Lively, Department Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Blue KC. “She’s a perfect example of a high-impact coach, and we are pleased to recognize her as a Blue KC Coach with Character.”
Selected from nominations submitted online, with one honoree announced each month throughout the 2018 MLB season, each Blue KC Coaches with Character honoree is interviewed on 810 WHB, receives a VIP gift package from Blue KC and CYITML and is invited to meet Royals General Manager and CYITML Founder Dayton Moore at an event on September 27 at Kauffman Stadium. Additionally, Blue KC makes a $2,000 donation to CYITML in honor of each selected coach.
Those who would like to nominate an amateur coach from the KC area for Blue KC Coaches with Character are encouraged to visit CYouInTheMajorLeagues.org/bluekc.