Nativity’s Jim Mahin stressed life lessons, Christian values
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN BANICH Jim Mahin (right) with Roncalli freshman coach Kevin Banich, who played for Mahin in 2003 and ’04 at Nativity. Mahin coached Nativity’s seventh- and eighth-grade football team from 1986 to 2013 and was honored during homecoming festivities in October, when about 50 of his former players showed up to pay their respect. He is known for having a positive influence on hundreds of boys.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BETH MAHIN Longtime Nativity coach Jim Mahin was honored earlier this year.
By B. Scott Mohr Associate editor
While Jim Mahin enjoyed coaching the seventh- and eighth-grade football team at Nativity for 28 years, he derived even more pleasure from watching his players develop as athletes and fine young men.
“I had the kids for two years, and they progressed well,” said Mahin, who retired at the end of the 2013 season and was recognized during homecoming festivities in October, when about 50 of his former players showed up to honor him. “It was a touching moment.”
Before his tenure at Nativity, he coached at St. Andrew and St. Joan of Arc. “Nativity was looking for a coach, and I agreed to a two-year commitment. Well ... every time I thought about turning the program over to someone else, a parent would come up to me and say, ‘Why don’t you stay two more years so you can coach my son?’ ”
But there wouldn’t be any more extensions after 2013. “I was good with my decision to quit, but I still miss coaching,” said the four-time runner-up in the Catholic Youth Organization city tournament. He is known for having a positive influence on hundreds of boys, helping them grow into fine young men of faith while teaching them life lessons and how to deal with winning and losing.
Mahin, a graduate of Cathedral High School, now has more time to follow his former players at the high school and collegiate level. “I don’t miss too many Roncalli games.” Some of his players have gone on to win college conference championships.
The former coach said he can recall special moments from each season. One in particular pertains to John Hollowell, the oldest son of Roncalli President Joe Hollowell. “John wasn’t a good athlete, and he wasn’t fast, but he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass for us. That surprised all of us,” said Mahin, 62, whose sons, Pat, Mark and Ryan, played for him and went on to win state championships under Roncalli coach Bruce Scifres. Mahin and his wife, Beth, also have three daughters, Katie Peats, Laura and Kelly, and 10 grandchildren, the oldest of whom will play freshman football for the Rebels next season.
Mahin often considered moving up to the high school level, but he was in the wholesale furniture business and didn’t have the time that it would require. He was content to remain at the cadet level, where he taught the fundamentals of the game while instilling Christian values in his players. “Football can teach a young man a lot of things,” Mahin said.
“Jim is just a good man and was always a fine Christian role model for his players,” Scifres said. “I think everyone who knows Jim knows he is a really good person. My wife and I felt blessed to have both of our sons play for him at Nativity. “Not only was he a wonderful role model, he was also an excellent football coach. Seldom did he have more than 13 or 14 players on his cadet roster, yet every week you knew that his kids were going to be tough, disciplined and very well coached,” said Scifres, who has won six state championships at Roncalli.
“Over the years I always felt he got as much out of his players as any coach in the CYO. The fact that each year he could have a hard-hitting and highly competitive team while running a faith-based program was just icing on the cake. He was the type of coach that any parent would want their son to play for. I know he certainly had a positive impact on my sons!"
Luke Scifres, the Scifres’ oldest son, said Mahin was a dedicated coach who truly touched the lives of many young men. “He loved to win, and he was big on fundamentals. But if we lost, we didn’t have to run the entire next practice. More importantly, he wanted us to be successful in life. He was more than a football coach; he was kind of like a life coach. I have a great deal of respect for him. I went to the ceremony at homecoming, and I could tell he still cares about me. He wanted to know how everything was going for me.”
And life is treating Luke just fine. He is a senior at Marian University and the long snapper for the Knights’ football team, which will play Southern Oregon on Friday, Dec. 19, in Daytona Beach for the NAIA national championship. Scifres is majoring in education and plans on teaching and coaching football after graduating. I would love to coach at Roncalli, but the teaching market is tight, so I’ll coach wherever I can teach,” he said. Regardless of where he coaches, he is sure to employee some of the tactics learned from Mahin.
Roncalli freshman football coach Kevin Banich played on Mahin’s seventh- and eighth-grade team in 2003 and ’04 and commented, “He had high expectations for us players and in our lives. The game of football was just a small portion of life to Jim. He expected us be good Christians; he expected us to go to church with our families; he expected us to be good men of service. I expect the same out of my players.
“Jim also stressed the importance of being unselfish players. I had always played quarterback, but he needed me at tight end in the seventh grade, so that’s what I played,” said Banich, who recalls having a good team that year. “I went back to playing quarterback the next year and at Roncalli.
“While playing for coach Mahin, it seemed that he was teaching lessons about the game of football; however, I later realized that he was teaching us lessons for the game of life.
“It’s unheard of today for a coach to spend 29 years at any level. His unselfish service – he was never paid a penny – was for the love of helping children. He was a father figure to all those boys. Besides being fundamentally sound, all of Jim’s players are extremely disciplined and respectful. It’s great to hear that coach Mahin is being recognized for his outstanding leadership.
“It’s pretty cool to see Jim in the grandstands watching me coach a game. He is still concerned about me and my family. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, and Jim always asks about her. He has always cared about more than just touchdowns.”
Reflecting on his playing days for Mahin, Banich said his coach was a competitive guy. “He definitely wanted to win,” but he could accept a loss “if we had practiced hard throughout the week, played as hard as possible in the game and played to our ability.”