Sports

O’Neill Siblings Guide Eagles to Soar

The O’Neill family is made up of, seated in front, Gerard and Chris, as well as, from left, Edward Morrissey holding daughter Flora, Kathleen holding son Dylan, Matthew, Kiera, Kaitlin holding her son Nicholas, Kristen and Kellie. (Photo courtesy Kathleen O’Neill)

It would be rather unique for a set of siblings to both be coaching a sport at the same high school. It would be even more uncommon if the school’s sports program featured three siblings.

So what do you call it when four siblings are all coaching at the same high school?

You call it the 2018-2019 school year at St. Edmund’s Prep H.S., Sheepshead Bay.

Four of the eight O’Neill siblings from Marine Park will indeed be coaching an Eagles team. Kathleen is the head girls’ varsity and junior varsity volleyball coach; Kristen leads the varsity softball team; Kellie is an assistant coach for varsity softball; and Matthew recently joined the fold as the head boys’ junior varsity basketball coach.

In addition to these four, the other four siblings – Kerri, Kaitlin, Shane and Kiera – as well as their parents – Gerard and Chris – all attend St. Columba, Marine Park. The children all played their Catholic Youth Organization sports at the parish.

Kristen is the longest-tenured coach at St. Edmund’s among the bunch as she prepares for her fifth season coaching softball. She convinced Kathleen, who had been coaching volleyball at the rival Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, to join the St. Edmund’s family.

Meanwhile, Kellie, now a senior at St. Joseph’s College Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, had been helping out Kristen the past three seasons, but this spring she will be a primary assistant coach. Matthew was an assistant for the men’s basketball team at St. Joe’s last season before now making the jump to a head coaching gig for the Eagles.

“Growing up we were a pretty athletic family, and to be able to as a family share that with one institution, that’s exciting,” said Kathleen, who is also the head women’s volleyball coach at St. Joseph’s College. “There are so many O’Neills that everyone in Marine Park knows at least one of us. Now we have kids in the community who their parents were our teachers, so we’re able to give back to the community.”

“Something like this doesn’t happen,” said Kellie, who is gearing up for her senior season as a member of the St. Joseph’s College women’s basketball team. “Coming from a huge family and playing sports all our lives and now going to St. Edmund’s, I think that we can all bring what we’ve learned throughout the years over to a coaching experience instead of from the player’s perspective.”

When presented with the option to return to St. Joe’s as an assistant or build the foundations of his own program at his high school alma mater, Matthew’s choice was a relatively easy one.

“It came down to getting a head coaching job at my old high school, so it wound up being a great opportunity for me,” said Matthew, who also played basketball at St. Joe’s. “I had a great four year at St. Edmund’s. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The younger siblings – Matthew and Kellie – are eager to learn from their older sisters – Kathleen and Kristen – who have more experience coaching.

“I’ve been in the coaching world, and I really hope I can pass down the good and the bad, what to watch out for and just how to make their coaching experience smoother from the very beginning,” Kathleen said.

“Coming from an assistant coach to now a head coach, I’ll definitely be leaning on Kathleen and Kristen to help me out because it’s a different standpoint, but I’m ready for it,” Matthew said.

Having their siblings around is especially helpful if someone needs to fill in on short notice. They’re all confident that one of their siblings can step in, do a good job and keep their team striving toward its goal.

“We go to each other for advice, or we go to each other when we need someone to help out,” Kristen said. “We all know the game, so that’s the beauty of this growing up in a sports family. I can totally lean on my siblings to help me out, whether it’s a practice or a game. We all have each other.”

“It’s great that all four of us will be coaching at the school,” Kellie said. “It definitely makes me more comfortable with them there beside me as I coach.”

No matter the sport or the season, the O’Neills all understand the values of what it takes to be a role model for their players.

“It’s St. Edmund’s first, and it’s always student-athletes first,” Kristen said. “We grew up as athletes, but we have to remember that the students have to do their homework and be respectful.”

We’ve of course heard the term “sibling rivalry,” but in this case, since the four O’Neills are coaching at the same school, what we’re seeing is the sibling support system firmly in place. Kathleen’s volleyball season is underway, and she’s already feeling the love from her family members.

In fact, the O’Neills are a family within the larger St. Edmund’s family, and they’re all on the same team when it comes to shaping the lives of young student-athletes – just like their coaches did for them.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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