Student athletes are some of the busiest people around. They manage school, practice, family and social life, and sometimes jobs or career planning. Some of the only people who are perhaps even busier are folks like Carl Patz, a Hebron native, who coaches those young athletes.
A loan officer at Tech Credit Union by day and trainer by night and weekend, Carl Patz was a star athlete at Hebron High School and continued to shine as a discus and hammer thrower at Indiana State University. Even though he claimed a number of podium finishes and a championship, Patz never planned for personal coaching to be career. It was a position he stumbled onto.
“It kind of started by happenstance,” said Patz. “My first year out of college, I went to a meet that I’d won the previous year unattached. As I was training for those meets, I just started training one kid at Hebron that just happened to be around when I practiced. After she graduated, she passed my name on to someone else and I started coaching that person and it just kind of went on from there.”
He eventually formalized his training and made it a business called “Let It Fly Throwing,” or L.I.F.T. Working with the talented kids from around the area proved to be a learning experience for Patz as he discovered that every student chases a different goal. Some aim to be champions, like Patz had been, or are looking to compete on the collegiate level.
“When I started, I was just trying to get kids around the area to be better at their throws, like discus and shotput,” recalled Patz. “I wanted to help these kids get to college and experience the fun I’d had travelling all over to compete. So at first it started out as an elite club, but I went from coaching five or six kids one year, to 45 the next.”
That growth spurt led all kinds of students to Patz, many being friends of those first elites simply looking to have fun. Yet Patz found that even if some students were not aiming to compete at a high level, they got something very important from the club and his coaching – life experience.
“What I learned is that I was providing these kids an outlet to grow personally,” said Patz. “They’d grow to be more comfortable with other people, experience travelling, and people will always joke that my club is all about the new food. I realized that I was helping kids come out of their shells.”
Patz became not just a coach, teaching about throwing technique or training practices, but a life mentor for the kids enrolled in his program. Over the years he’s seen entire classes of students finish high school and college, and then start their own families. His students are more than just that, they become friends, or even something like family.
“The biggest thing is seeing these kids grow older, and staying really close with some of them,” said Patz. “They’re having kids, they’ve gotten married. I’ve walked two of the girls I’ve coached over the years down the aisle at their weddings, and I just preformed the wedding for another one of my girls last September. Those are the things that I’d have never imagined when I was 23 or 24 and started this.”
Between his work at Tech Credit Union and everything that coaching involves, it leaves Patz with little free time, but when he does get it there are two things on his mind first and foremost; family and friends.
“I don’t have free time,” he joked. “With free time, there’s definitely been a change in how I look at it over the last year. My free time is very important to me, and I take it to spend with family and friends, especially those that aren’t necessarily in the area.”
Having grown up in the Region, Patz is happy to see Porter County grow and develop. It’s a one of a kind community in his eyes.
“I love Northwest Indiana,” he said. “I always say there’s nothing better than a beautiful sunset over a nice cornfield in the middle of fall. There’s just some things in Northwest Indiana that you can’t get anywhere else.”